One-Minute Answers by Stephen R. Gibson

Contents of One-Minute Answers

Are There Three Heavens and No Hell?

Question: The Bible teaches that there is one heaven and one hell. Don't Latter-day Saints teach that there are three heavens and no hell?

Jesus said: "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you" (John 14:2). From this scripture we know that there are, in the life hereafter, several places or mansions to inherit. Paul teaches us more on this subject when he tells about being "caught up to the third heaven," where he heard unspeakable words (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul further describes three degrees of glory in 1 Corinthians 15:39-42 and described the various levels of resurrected beings who would inherit them. All of these scriptures are powerful evidence of multiple stations in the hereafter.

When detractors ask us to prove the existence of three heavens (when Paul has already written of a third heaven), they are ignoring this question: if there is a third heaven, isn't there logically a first and second? Our understanding of the three degrees of glory comes from modem revelation (D & C 76), while the Bible simply shows that Paul, too, was familiar with this doctrine. Yet we are asked to prove this doctrine to the critic's satisfaction using only the Bible, but only after they attempt to explain away the verses already cited.

As far as hell is concerned, both the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants teach that there is a hell. However, as stated by John (Rev. 20:13), hell shall deliver up the dead to be judged "according to their works." The hell John the Revelator described, then, is a place where the spirits of those who did wickedness while in mortality reside until the time of the second resurrection at the end of Christ's millennial reign. This resurrection is described in the Bible as the resurrection of the "unjust" (Acts 24:15) and the resurrection of damnation (John 5:29).

John the Revelator also speaks of the "great white throne" judgment, which follows the second resurrection, and then speaks of a "second death" which some will experience at that time (Rev. 20:11-15). Those who inherit the second death and are cast into a post-spiritworld hell following their resurrection are described in the Bible as sons of perdition. Their eternal fate is alluded to in such passages as Dan. 12:2; Lk. 12:5; Jn. 17:12; 1 Tim 6:9; Heb. 10:39; 2 Pet. 3:7; Rev. 2:11; 17:8; 20:6, 14; 21:8.

Latter-day Saint scriptures clearly teach of three heavens and define in general terms who will inherit each level (D & C 76:50-112; 80:16- 21; 131:1-2, etc.) They also explain the spirit-world hell which will exist until the end of the second resurrection (D & C 29:36-45) and the kingdom of no glory into which the sons of perdition will be cast following the second resurrection and the final judgment (D & C 88:24; 76:25-38).