D&C 76 – Celestial

Verse 50 begins the vision that explains the qualifications of the celestial category of people who come forth in the resurrection of the just.

51 They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given—
52 That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power;
53 And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true.

John the Revelator tells us a bit about this testimony of Jesus.

Revelation 19:10
And I fell at his feet to worship him. And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.

Revelation 12:17
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.

As with the criteria for being just, those who have the testimony of Jesus keep the commandments. And they have the spirit of prophecy. Alma supports the link between the testimony of Christ and the spirit of prophecy.

Alma 6:8
And Alma went and began to declare the word of God unto the church which was established in the valley of Gideon, according to the revelation of the truth of the word which had been spoken by his fathers, and according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins, and the holy order by which he was called. And thus it is written. Amen.

Verses 51 and 52 focus on the commandment to be baptized by water and to receive the Holy Spirit. The scriptures abound with that commandment. But verse 53 takes it up a notch – they need to overcome by faith and be sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise. Notice that the Father sheds forth this Spirit upon all those who are just and true…and we learned in the last post that the just obey the commandments and the word of God. When you see the scriptures all supporting each other, you know you’re onto something.

JST 1 John 3:9
Whosoever is born of God doth not continue in sin; for the Spirit of God remaineth in him; and he cannot continue in sin, because he is born of God, having received that holy Spirit of promise.

Those who receive the holy Spirit of promise are born of God and do not continue in sin. They can’t continue in sin because the Spirit of God remains in them. That corroborates the earlier definition of just. Which means that before we are born of God and receive the Holy Spirit of promise, we are not just and we are continuing in sin!

Verse 53 says that these people are sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. That’s means polygamy temple marriage, right? No.

D&C 124:124
First, I give unto you Hyrum Smith to be a patriarch unto you, to hold the sealing blessings of my church, even the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby ye are sealed up unto the day of redemption, that ye may not fall notwithstanding the hour of temptation that may come upon you.

Mosiah 5:15
15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his, that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.

We are sealed unto Christ, not to a spouse. When we are sealed to Christ, we can be brought to heaven and have eternal life.

54 They are they who are the church of the Firstborn.

Who is the church of the Firstborn?

D&C 76:94
They who dwell in his presence are the church of the Firstborn; and they see as they are seen, and know as they are known, having received of his fulness and of his grace;

D&C 93:22
And all those who are begotten through me are partakers of the glory of the same, and are the church of the Firstborn.

D&C 107:18-19
The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church—
To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

D&C 88:3-5
Wherefore, I now send upon you another Comforter, even upon you my friends, that it may abide in your hearts, even the Holy Spirit of promise; which other Comforter is the same that I promised unto my disciples, as is recorded in the testimony of John.
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—

Those who have been spiritually born of God receive the Holy Spirit of Promise and are the church of the Firstborn. They are sealed unto Christ and eligible to enjoy the presence of God. The next several verses give more details about these people and the rewards they receive. We could spend a lot of time diving into each one, but we’ll refrain so we can stay somewhat on topic. But pay attention to bolded elements – they will keep popping up.

55 They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things
56 They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory;
57 And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son.
58 Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God—
59 Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.
60 And they shall overcome all things.
61 Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet.
62 These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.

These next verses begin to paint a radically different view of the plan of salvation than what is taught in the modern LDS church.

63 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. 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.

1 Thessalonians 4:16-17
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.

D&C 88:96-98
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 [see 76:59], 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.

Jacob 4:11
Wherefore, beloved brethren, be reconciled unto him through the atonement of Christ, his Only Begotten Son, and ye may obtain a resurrection, according to the power of the resurrection which is in Christ, and be presented as the first-fruits of Christ unto God, having faith, and obtained a good hope of glory in him before he manifesteth himself in the flesh.

D&C 45:45-47
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.
Wherefore, if ye have slept in peace blessed are you; for as you now behold me and know that I am, even so shall ye come unto me and your souls shall live, and your redemption shall be perfected; and the saints shall come forth from the four quarters of the earth.
Then shall the arm of the Lord fall upon the nations.

2 Nephi 9:18
But, behold, the righteous, the saints of the Holy One of Israel, they who have believed in the Holy One of Israel, they who have endured the crosses of the world, and despised the shame of it, they shall inherit the kingdom of God, which was prepared for them from the foundation of the world, and their joy shall be full forever.

An interesting thing to note is the timing of this. These people are quickened and caught up to meet Christ immediately BEFORE he returns to the earth. There are still wicked people living on the earth when these people are caught up to dwell with Christ.

D&C 45:16
And I will show it plainly as I showed it unto my disciples as I stood before them in the flesh, and spake unto them, saying: As ye have asked of me concerning the signs of my coming, in the day when I shall come in my glory in the clouds of heaven, to fulfil the promises that I have made unto your fathers,

D&C 109:75
That when the trump shall sound for the dead, we shall be caught up in the cloud to meet thee, that we may ever be with the Lord;

D&C 29:12-13
And again, verily, verily, I say unto you, and it hath gone forth in a firm decree, by the will of the Father, that mine apostles, the Twelve which were with me in my ministry at Jerusalem, shall stand at my right hand at the day of my coming in a pillar of fire, being clothed with robes of righteousness, with crowns upon their heads, in glory even as I am, to judge the whole house of Israel, even as many as have loved me and kept my commandments, and none else.
For a trump shall sound both long and loud, even as upon Mount Sinai, and all the earth shall quake, and they shall come forth—yea, even the dead which died in me, to receive a crown of righteousness, and to be clothed upon, even as I am, to be with me, that we may be one.

The apostles will have already received crowns upon their heads and be clothed with robes of righteousness when Christ returns. And they will stand in glory even as Christ! They will have already received their judgement and reward before descending with Christ. And verse 13 tells us those that died in Christ will receive the same and be even as Christ is. The celestial category of people receive their judgement and reward just before Christ returns!

JST Mark 8:43
For verily I say unto you, That he shall come; and he that layeth down his life for my sake and the gospel’s, shall come with him, and shall be clothed with his glory in the cloud, on the right hand of the Son of man.

64 These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection.
65 These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just.

The book of Revelation links this first resurrection to those who come with Christ and reign with him.

Revelation 20:4, 6
And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.

Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.

Note that these people come in glory BEFORE the beginning of the millennium. We will see in the next post that the terrestrial category also have part in the first resurrection, so it’s important to remember that there is a difference between the resurrection of the just and the first resurrection. All those in the resurrection of the just are part of the first resurrection, but not everyone in the first resurrection is part of the resurrection of the just.

66 These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all.

Obadiah 1:21
And saviours shall come up on mount Zion to judge the mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.

D&C 133:56
And the graves of the saints shall be opened; and they shall come forth and stand on the right hand of the Lamb, when he shall stand upon Mount Zion, and upon the holy city, the New Jerusalem; and they shall sing the song of the Lamb, day and night forever and ever.

D&C 63:49
Yea, and blessed are the dead that die in the Lord, from henceforth, when the Lord shall come, and old things shall pass away, and all things become new, they shall rise from the dead and shall not die after, and shall receive an inheritance before the Lord, in the holy city.

Revelation 21:2
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

 

67 These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn.

D&C 78:21-22
For ye are the church of the Firstborn, and he will take you up in a cloud, and appoint every man his portion.
And he that is a faithful and wise steward shall inherit all things. Amen.

You can see how quickly these things start referring back to each other: church of the Firstborn, cloud,  Mt. Zion, holy city, reigning with Christ, inheriting all things, etc. It gets to the point that it’s difficult to discuss in a linear fashion because there are so many cross-references. That’s an indication that you have a solid truth, when there are so many cross-references and facets that it’s difficult to describe in human language.

68 These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all.

Revelation 3:5
He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.

Alma 5:58
For the names of the righteous shall be written in the book of life, and unto them will I grant an inheritance at my right hand. [refer back to D&C 133:56].

69 These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.

70 These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical.

 

D&C 88

Now that we have really scratched the surface of Section 76, we are prepared to look at Section 88, where the term celestial kingdom is used.

D&C 88:4-5
This Comforter is the promise which I give unto you of eternal life, even the glory of the celestial kingdom;
Which glory is that of the church of the Firstborn, even of God, the holiest of all, through Jesus Christ his Son—

Romans 8:17
And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

The glory that members of the church of the Firstborn receive is the glory of God. That’s the glory of the celestial kingdom. Everyone gets God’s glory here. This is eternal life.

When talking about the earth, Section 88 says:

18 Therefore, it must needs be sanctified from all unrighteousness, that it may be prepared for the celestial glory;
19 For after it hath filled the measure of its creation, it shall be crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father;
20 That bodies who are of the celestial kingdom may possess it forever and ever; for, for this intent was it made and created, and for this intent are they sanctified.

Isn’t it interesting that Section 88 talks about bodies who are of the celestial kingdom.

28 They who are of a celestial spirit shall receive the same body which was a natural body; even ye shall receive your bodies, and your glory shall be that glory by which your bodies are quickened.
29 Ye who are quickened by a portion of the celestial glory shall then receive of the same, even a fulness.

JST 1 Corinthians 15:40
Also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial, and bodies telestial; but the glory of the celestial, one; and the terrestrial, another; and the telestial, another.

This is some deep stuff. If only those of a celestial spirit receive the same body which was a natural body, what kind of body do terrestrial and telestial spirits receive? The glory we have is determined by the body we have…not vice versa. Consider the ramifications. Perhaps in a future post we can pursue that further.

Summary

The people in the celestial category are caught up to meet Christ in the clouds before he returns to earth. Before Christ has stepped foot on this earth, these people have already received the glory of the Father. In order to receive that glory, these people have already overcome the world and become perfect in Christ. This is not an event that happens after the millennium, when all the wicked are judged. A significant departure from the time frame I was taught growing up.

Concluding thoughts

D&C 78:7
For if you will that I give unto you a place in the celestial world, you must prepare yourselves by doing the things which I have commanded you and required of you.

D&C 105:5
And Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself.

Are we currently living the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom? If not, how can we possibly expect Zion to be built up? And are we deluding ourselves into thinking we can earn a place in the celestial world without doing the things God requires of us? Do we even know what he requires of us?