Are There Three Heavens?
What Are The Three Degrees of Glory? LDS claim the Bible teaches three
heavens in I Cor. 15:41 when it says, "There is one glory of the
sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for
one star different from another star in glory." In LDS scripture,
the sun, moon and stars are symbolic of the celestial, terrestrial, and
telestial heavens (kingdoms or glories) where resurrected people spend
eternity (Doctrine & Covenants 76:70-71, 81, 96- 98). LDS believe
only devout Mormons go to the celestial kingdom (Gospel Through The
Aqes, p. 166). Non-valiant Mormons and honorable non-Mormons will
go to the terrestrial kingdom. But most people, including all the wicked
except the sons of perdition, will go to the telestial kingdom (Mormon
Doctrine, pp. 134, 778, 784). LDS not only believe in those three
heavens, but they also believe: "in the celestial glory there are
three heavens or degrees" (D&C 131:1). And they believe, while
"baptism is the gate to the celestial kingdom, celestial (eternal
or temple) marriage is the gate to an exaltation in the highest heaven
within the celestial world" (Mormon Doctrine, p.118).
But is this LDS doctrine in the Bible? Mormons often point to the witnesses
of the Book of Mormon as proof that it is true. To show
that is a valid argument they quote II Cor. 13:1:"In the mouth of
two or three witnesses shall every word be established." Using that
same argument, can three heavenly kingdoms, be established by witnesses
in the Bible?
What Does The Bible Teach
About Three Degrees of Glory?
1. OLD TESTAMENT PROPHETS mentioned only two ways
to spend eternity: the dead will awake to everlasting life or to
shame and everlasting contempt (Dan. 12:2), heaven or hell are the alternatives
in Psalm 139:8, Isa. 14:12-15. No other options are found in the Old
2. JESUS CHRIST mentioned only two ways to spend
eternity in the kingdom of heaven or in outer darkness (Matt. 8:11-12),
in life eternal or in everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46); in the kingdom
of God or in hell fire (Mark 9:47); being saved or lost (Lk. 19:10); having
everlasting life or perishing (Jn. 3:16); condemned or not condemned (Jn.
3:18); having life or death (Jn. 5:24); having the resurrection of the
just or of the unjust (Jn.5:29).
3. THE APOSTLE JOHN mentioned only two ways to spend
eternity: having life everlasting or having the wrath of God (Jn. 3:36);
having eternal life or not having eternal life (I Jn. 5:11-12); those
whose names are not in the book of life are cast into the lake
of fire (Rev. 20:15) and those whose names arc in the book of life enter
into God's presence in the heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2-3 & 27).
Notice, a name is either in or not in the book of life.
No other alternative exists!
4.THE APOSTLE PETER mentioned only two ways to spend eternity:
the saved have an incorruptible inheritance in heaven while the unsaved
do not (I Pet. 1:3-5) the godly are delivered to a new heaven and earth
while the ungodly perish inperdition and judgment (II Pet. 2:9, 3:7-9
5. THE APOSTLE PAUL mentioned only two ways to spend eternity:
"The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through
Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 6:23), believers are saved while unbelievers
perish (I Cor. 1:18); the justified inherit God's kingdom but the unrighteous
do not (I Cor. 6:9-11); followers of God inherit the kingdom of Christ
and of God, but the wrath of God comes on the disobedient (Eph.
5:1-6); believers inherit the kingdom of God, but those who don't know
or obey God are punished with everlasting destruction from the presence
of the Lord (II Thess. 1: 5-9).
What Bible Texts Do LDS Use
To Teach Three Heavens?
Mormons use II Cor 12:2 to teach three heavenly
kingdoms because Paul spoke of "one caught up to the third heaven."
But, the Bible does not say anyone will spend eternity in the first or
second heaven. Why not? Because the first heaven is the atmosphere with
birds and clouds (Gen. 1:20; Ps. 147:8). The second heaven (sidereal)
refers to the stars and outer space (Gen. 1: 14-19). The third heaven
is God's "dwelling place" I Kings 8:30). Mormons also use the
word heaven in the same three ways (Mormon Doctrine, p.347). In
II Cor. 12:2 & 4 the third heaven is equated with paradise, so it
cannot be the LDS celestial kingdom which requires Mormon baptism for
entrance because the unbaptized thief on the cross went to paradise when
he died (Lk. 23:43)
Mormons claim Paul referred to three heavens in I Cor.
15:41 when he wrote of the difference in the glories of the sun, moon,
and stars. But, that verse is part of his answer to the two questions
in verse 35; "How are the dead raised up? And with what body
do they come?" Verses 36 to 57 have his complete answer.
Verse 41 refers to the difference between the sun, moon and stars
and verse 42 continues; "So also is the resurrection of the
dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption " In
other words, there is a difference between mortal bodies and immortal,
resurrected bodies. LDS also claim verse 40 teaches two heavens when it
says, "There are also celestial bodies and bodies terrestrial."
But, verse 40 is also part of the answer to the questions in verse 35
about resurrected bodies, so it cannot refer to heavens. In the King James
Bible the Greek word epigeios is translated as "terrestrial"
in verse 40, but as "earth" in verse 47 (and in Phil. 2:10 &
3:19). Also, the Greek word epouranios is translated as "celestial"
in verse 40 but as 'heaven" or "heavenly" four times in
verses 47-49. Dictionaries also define "terrestrial" as "earthly"
and "celestial" as "heavenly." Translations other
than the King James use "earthly" and "heavenly" instead
of "terrestrial" and "celestial" in I Cor. 15:40.
According to II Cor. 5:1-4, we now have an earthly or terrestrial
(epigeios) body which will be exchanged for a heavenly (celestial) body
when we are resurrected. No one in the Bible is ever promised another
terrestrial body. Joseph Smith coined the word "telestial"
in verse 40 of his Inspired Version of the Bible, but that word
does not even exist in the original Greek language and it conflicts with
all Bible manuscript evidence. The only place that word can be found
is in Mormon writings!
If the sun, moon and stars in I Cor. 15:40
refer to three heavenly kingdoms as LDS claim, do the four kinds of flesh
in I Cor. 15:39 refer to four heavenly kingdoms? Forcing doctrines into
Bible texts when they are not really there opens the door to all kinds
What Does Mormon Scripture Teach
About Three Degrees of Glory?
1. The Book of Mormon mentions only
two ways to spend eternity: in the kingdom of God or in an awful, filthy
hell (I Ne.15:34-35); in liberty and eternal life or in captivity and
eternal death (II Ne. 2:27); in never ending happiness or in never ending
torment (Mos. 2:39-41) ' in heaven with everlasting life and salvation
or under the wrath of God in eternal torment (Mos. 5:5 & 15) ' redeemed
and dwelling with God or perishing in their sins (Mos. 15:21-27), in happiness
or in punishment as eternal as the life of the soul (Alma 42:16); in everlasting
life or in everlasting damnation (Hela. 12:26). LDS claim that the Book
of Mormon is "the fullness of the gospel" (D. & C, 20:9127:5)
and Joseph Smith said, "I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon
was the keystone of our religion and a man would get nearer to God by
abiding by its precepts than by any other book" (History of the
Church Vol. 4, p. 461). How can that be true when the Book of Mormon
never even mentions three heavens?
2. The Doctrine & Covenants is
the only book of LDS scripture which mentions three degrees of glory (D&C
76, 88, & 131). But the D&C often mentions only two ways to spend
eternity: eternal life or eternal damnation; D&C 29:27-28, 43-44),
eternal life or unquenchable fire (D&C 43:25,33; 63 49 & 54),
eternal life in celestial glory or burned with unquenchable fire (D&C
10 1 -66-67). This revelation in D&C 101 is dated almost two years
after Smith's vision of the three degrees of glory in D&C 78. Did
God change his mind? The D&C is not consistent in teaching three
heavenly kingdoms! The D&C has also undergone many changes: The 75
pages of the Lectures on Faith were deleted in 1921; The meaning
of D&C 5 was reversed from the way it read in chap. 4 of the original
Book of Commandments. 13 1/2 verses were added to D&C 28 after
it was first printed in chap. 27 of the Book of Commandments. Since
many other "revelations" have been changed in the D&C, could
the revelations which teach "three heavens" also be changed
in the future? If the D&C. came from God, why was it changed? Isaiah
40:8 says, "The word of our God shall stand forever."
3. The Pearl of Great Price mentions
only two ways to spend Eternity: in the kingdom of heaven or in death
and hell (Moses 6:29 & 59), in fullness of joy or in chains of darkness
(Moses 7:57-67). There is no mention of three heavens anywhere in the
P. of G. P.
4. The Inspired Version of the Bible
by Joseph Smith is printed in the appendix of the official LDS edition
of the King James Version where it is called the Joseph Smith Translation.
While Smith altered the meanings and verse numbers in many texts,
no meanings of Bible verses used in this pamphlet are altered except for
the addition of "telestial" in I Cor. 15 40. So, if LDS claim
any of these verses are mistranslated they imply that the Inspired
Version was not inspired! But if it is inspired, why doesn't it clearly
teach three heavens? The only thing Smith added in his Inspired Version
about three heavens is the word "telestial," which is not enough
to understand that LDS doctrine. Many Mormons think Smith did not complete
his translation of the Bible, but in LDS scripture the Lord told him to
finish it (D&C 73:4) and publish it (D&C 124:89; 42:56-58). Was
he disobedient? LDS records show he completed the New Testament on Feb.
2, 1833 and the Old Testament on July 2, 1833 (History of the Church
Vol. 1, pp. 324 & 368). Although the King James Version is the
official LDS Bible, they claim it is mistranslated. If it is mistranslated,
why haven't LDS prophets corrected it since one of their official titles
is "translator"? In 1981, as well as in previous printings,
numerous changes were made in all LDS books of scripture except
the King James Bible! Yet, before 1981 Apostle McConkie declared
that all LDS scripture except the Bible "are accepted without qualification
" because they were revealed "in modern times in English"
(Mormon Doctrine p.764). Since those books were revealed in English,
the changes made in them were not made to correct translation problems.
So, why were they changed?
What Is The Biblical Alternative?
In contrast to the changing and self-contradictory
LDS scriptures, the Bible declares, "Forever, 0 Lord, Thy word is
settled in heaven" (Ps. 119:89). God's eternal and unchangeable
word declares there are only two ways to spend eternity; with or without
God. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son
of God hath not life" (I Jn. 5:12). Eternal life with God is a gift
to believers and therefore cannot be earned by works (Jn. 3:16; Eph.2:8-9;
Titus 3:5-6). Yet, believers can gain or lose rewards in heaven by the
way they live on earth (Matt. 10:42, Lk 19:17; 1 Cor. 3:11-15). Unbelievers
will also be judged "according to their works" and punished
(Rev. 20:13; 21:8). Some will be beaten with few stripes and some with
many stripes (Lk. 12:47-48), and it will be "more tolerable"
for some than for others (Matt. 1 1:22). Thus, the LDS idea of three
heavens does not make God more just in the way He rewards or punishes.
But, one must become "a child of God by faith in Christ Jesus"
before he can earn a reward in heaven (Gal. 3:26; Jn. 1:12- 13). Since
we have all sinned (Rom. 3:23) and all our righteousnesses are as filthy
rags" (Isa. 64:6); we must receive "the righteousness which
is of God by faith" (Phil. 3:9) in order to enter a perfect heaven
without polluting it. Rom. 4:6 declares, "God imputeth (puts to our
account) righteousness without works" (Rom. 3:21-22, 9:30; 10:3-4,
10, 11 Cor. 5:21). But many, like those in Rom. 10:3, "being ignorant
of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness,
have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." Are
you trusting in your own righteousness or in God's righteousness to enter
His one, true heavenly kingdom?
-M. W. Cowan & S. R. Doty