The LDS Encyclopedia of Mormonism teaches that “at the final judgment, all except the devil, his angels, and those who become sons of perdition during mortal life will be assigned to one of the three kingdoms of glory.” <https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Degrees_of_Glory>
That sentence is incorrect. All of humanity will indeed be judged and assigned to one of those three categories – that is true. But where is the scripture that states that this happens at the final judgement? There isn’t one. What is the basis for this statement? I’m not sure what the basis was, but it wasn’t the scriptures! I’ve spent a lot of time searching for scriptures that support the notion that the separation into three degrees of glory happens at the final judgment. I haven’t been able to find them. If I’ve overlooked something, please enlighten me.
This post will use the scriptures to show that this judgment and assignment to three degrees of glory does not happen at the final judgment, but rather happens at the Second Coming of Christ and the beginning of the Millennium.
Christ uses the phrase “in the clouds of heaven” to refer to his Second Coming.
And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my as I stood before them in the flesh, and spake unto them, saying: As ye have asked of me concerning the of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my in the clouds of heaven, to fulfil the promises that I have made unto your fathers,
When discussing the Celestial category of people in Section 76, we are informed:
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.
Christ will be accompanied by these celestial-category people when he comes in the clouds of heaven to the earth to usher in the Millennium. The first thing to note is that this group of people will be comprised of those who have already died as well as those still alive at the time of Christ’s coming. Multiple scriptures attest to this:
1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
And the saints that are upon the earth, who are alive, shall be quickened and be caught up to meet him. And they who have slept in their graves shall come forth, for their graves shall be opened; and they also shall be caught up to meet him in the midst of the pillar of heaven—They are Christ’s, the first fruits, they who shall descend with him first, and they who are on the earth and in their graves, who are first caught up to meet him; and all this by the voice of the sounding of the trump of the angel of God.
And then they shall look for me, and, behold, I will come; and they shall see me in the of heaven, clothed with power and great ; with all the holy angels; and he that not for me shall be cut off. But before the arm of the Lord shall fall, an angel shall sound his trump, and the saints that have slept shall come forth to meet me in the cloud.
Who are these holy angels that come with Christ? The Celestial category of people, the saints that have slept. Notice how all these scriptures are linked by the angel sounding the trump. Joseph even uses this language in the Kirtland Temple dedicatory prayer.
That thy may come forth out of the wilderness of darkness, and shine forth fair as the , clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners; and be adorned as a bride for that day when thou shalt unveil the heavens, and cause the mountains to down at thy presence, and the to be exalted, the rough places made smooth; that thy glory may fill the earth; that when the trump shall sound for the dead, we shall be in the cloud to meet thee, that we may ever be with the Lord; that our garments may be pure, that we may be clothed upon with of , with palms in our hands, and of glory upon our heads, and reap eternal for all our .
Obviously there has to be some type of judgment to determine who is worthy to meet Christ in the cloud and who is not. Those who are judged worthy of the Celestial glory are caught up to meet him before his Second Coming and later descend with him. That is when the Celestial category is initially judged and populated…nowhere close to the final judgment.
In the New Testament, Peter writes about the dead being taught the gospel so they could be judged according to men in the flesh.
1 Peter 4:6
for this cause was the also to them that are , that they might be according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
Notice the word links to the descriptions of the Terrestrial people.
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 Firstborn 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 them, 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.
And after this another angel shall sound, which is the second trump; and then cometh the redemption of those who are Christ’s at his coming; who have received their part in that prison which is prepared for them, that they might receive the gospel, and be judged according to men in the flesh.
Notice these people spent time in prison and were taught the gospel so they could be judged according to men in the flesh. These are the same people in 76 and 88, the terrestrial people. The Celestial people are described as taking part in the first resurrection. But so are the Terrestrials.
D&C 45 teaches that when Christ comes in his glory, the heathens and those that knew now law (linking back to D&C 76:72) will be redeemed and take part in the first resurrection.
And then shall the nations be , and they that shall have part in the ; and it shall be for them. And shall be , that he shall have no place in the hearts of the children of men. And at that day, when I shall come in my , shall the parable be fulfilled which I spake concerning the ten .
Compare that with the Telestials:
Wherefore, I, the Lord, have said that the , and the , and all , and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, and the , and the , shall have their part in that which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the . Verily I say, that they shall not have part in the .
So the “first resurrection” takes place around the Second Coming of Christ, and comprises the Celestial and Terrestrial categories of people.
At the time of Christ’s coming, those judged worthy of the Terrestrial glory are raised up to dwell on earth with Christ and with those Celestial people who have come with him. These people have been judged not worthy to meet Christ in the cloud, but they have been judged to not have to be thrust down to hell with the Telestials.This is the beginning of the Millennium when the Terrestrial category is populated. This, too, is nowhere close to the final judgment.
D&C 76:81-82,84-85, 102, 106
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 glory 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 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.
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 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;
And again, another trump shall sound, which is the third trump; and then come the spirits of men who are to be judged, and are found under condemnation; and these are the rest of the dead; and they live not again until the thousand years are ended, neither again, until the end of the earth.
According to D&C 88, the telestial category will be dead during the Millennium, and will not be restored to life until the thousand years are ended. So technically their judgment comes at the beginning of the Millennium when they aren’t raised to life with the Terrestrials. They are not redeemed from hell and restored to life until the end of the Millennium. You’ll also notice that this corresponds to the same time when Satan will be loosed and reign again for a little season (D&C 43:31). I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
By the beginning of the Millennium, everyone has been judged and assigned to one of the three degrees of glory. But instead of this happening at “the end”, with a final judgement, this will happen at the start of the Millennium. After the telestials have been restored to life, we still have the short season during which Satan reigns again, and the final battle with Satan and his angels against Michael and all those that follow the Lord. It is only after those major events, at the end, that the final judgment occurs. A lot can, and will, happen during that time that needs to be factored into a final judgment, and the next posts will talk about that.