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our Lord's portrayal of conditions in the spirit world. That righteous and unrighteous dwell apart between death and resurrection is made clear. Paradise, or, as the Jews liked to designate that blessed abode, "Abraham's bosom," is not the place of final glory, any more than the hell to which the rich man's spirit went is the final habitation of the lost. Between the two, however, "there is a great gulf fixed." To that intermediate state of existence men's works do follow them (Rev. 14:13); and the dead shall find that in their bodiless state their condition is that for which they have prepared themselves while in the flesh.
The Duration of Punishment
E are accustomed to speak broadly of salvation and condemnation in the hereafter as reward and punishment, respectively. The Scriptures justify this usage, and furthermore make plain the fact that reward or punishment will be a natural and inevitable heritage resulting from individual righteousness or sin.
The Eternal Judge of the quick and the dead is bound by His own inviolable laws-and no less so than by His Divine attributes of justice and mercy-to exalt every deserving soul, and to validate and enforce the loss and suffering consequent to wilful wickedness. Verily, the Lord God is no respecter of persons, condoning the unexpiated sins of favorites and inflicting punishment upon others for but equal guilt. Such an unbelievable condition would mean injustice and vindictiveness.
Everlasting blessedness is thoroughly consistent with justice. The souls that attain to salvation and eternal life "shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever." (Pearl of Great Price, p. 66.) But the thought of never-ending punishment as the fate of all who die in their sins is repugnant; and rightly so.
As reward for righteous living is to be proportionate to deserts, so punishment for sin must be graded according to the offense. The purpose of punishment is disciplinary, reformatory, and in support of justice. God's mercy is as truly manifest in the expiatory suffering, which He allows, as in the endless joys of salvation, which He bestows.
As to the duration of punishment, we may take assurance that it shall be measured to the individual in just accordance with the sum of his iniquity. That every sentence for sin must be interminable is as directly opposed to a rational conception of justice as it is contradictory of the revealed Word of God.
It was mercifully foreordained that even the prisoners thronging the pit should in due time be visited (Isa. 24:2122), and be offered means of amelioration (42:7). David sang right rapturously, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell." (Psa. 16:10.)
True, the Scriptures speak of endless punishment, and depict everlasting burnings, eternal damnation, and the sufferings incident to unquenchable fire, as features of the judgment reserved for the wicked. But none of these awful possibilities are anywhere in Scripture declared to be the unending fate of the individual sinner.
Blessing or punishment ordained of God is eternal, for He is eternal, and eternal are all His ways. His is a system of endless and eternal punishment, for it will always exist as the place or condition provided for the rebellious
and disobedient; but the penalty as visited upon the individual will terminate when through repentance and expiation the necessary reform has been effected and the uttermost farthing paid.
Even to hell there is an exit as well as an entrance; and when sentence has been served, commuted perhaps by repentance and its attendant works, the prison doors shall open and the penitent captive be afforded opportunity to comply with the law, which he aforetime violated. But the prison remains, and the eternal decree prescribing punishment for the offender stands unrepealed. So it is even with the penal institutions established by man.
To this effect hath the Lord spoken in the current age: "I am Alpha and Omega, Christ the Lord; yea, even I am He, the beginning and the end, the Redeemer of the world. And surely every man must repent or suffer, for I, God, am endless. Wherefore, I revoke not the judgments which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, yea, to those who are found on my left hand. Nevertheless it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal damnation . . . for, behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand, is endless punishment, for Endless is my name. Wherefore eternal punishment is God's punishment. Endless punishment is God's punishment."
The revelation continues: "Therefore I command you to repent-repent lest I smite you by the rod of my mouth, and by my wrath, and by my anger, and your sufferings be sore how sore you know not! how exquisite you know not! yea, how hard to bear you know not! For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent. But if they would not repent,
they must suffer even as I, which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit and would that I might not drink the bitter cup and shrink-Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men." (Doctrine & Covenants 19.)
The inhabitants of the telestial world-the lowest of the kingdoms of glory prepared for resurrected souls, shall include those "who are thrust down to hell" and "who shall not be redeemed from the devil until the last resurrection." (76:82-85.) And though these may be delivered from hell and attain to a measure of glory with possibilities of progression, yet their lot shall be that of "servants of the Most High, but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end." (v. 112.) Deliverance from hell is not admittance to heaven.
Advancement Worlds Without End
MPROVEMENT, advancement, progression, here and hereafter, are basal principles of the Divine plan with respect to the souls of men. Earth-life with its varied experiences of joy and sorrow, of success and failure, of temptation and resistance thereto, all the bitter and the sweet of mortal existence may be turned to eventual good in the development of the individual soul.
We hold as reasonable, scriptural, and true, that advancement in righteous achievement and power for good
shall be a feature of the future life, both during the period of disembodiment and in and after the resurrection from the dead. Nevertheless, ability to progress in eternity is largely conditioned by the thoroughness of our education in the school of mortality.
Our status in the hereafter will be found to be primarily dependent upon the merits or demerits of our life here; and beyond as in this world ability to advance will be varied and graded. Wilful neglect here may forfeit both ability and opportunity there. Hence, though in the mercy of God the Gospel is being preached in the spirit world, and vicarious administration of the essential and saving ordinances is provided for, to the end that the repentant dead "might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit" (1 Peter 4:6), disembodied spirits may be incapacitated and ineligible even for repentance, and for the benefits of baptism administered in their behalf upon earth, until they shall have learned in the spirit world the primary lessons that they ignored or rejected while in the flesh. To this effect spake Alma the prophet:
"There was a space granted unto man in which he might repent; therefore this life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God; a time to prepare for that endless state, which has been spoken of by us, which is after the resurrection of the dead." (Book of Mormon, Alma 12:24.)
"For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.
"And now as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you, that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end;