Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Papias and the Three Degrees of Glory

Papias is respected by LDS, Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical Christians as an Early Christian Father who lived in the 1st-Century AD. He is known to have been a Bishop of Hierapolis, Turkey and a respected doctrinal authority. His most well-known work is entitled "Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord." The only problem is, we don't have an existing copy of it. We know the work must have existed from several quotations from other later Christian scholars. One brief excerpt is contained in Irenaeus's "Against Heresies."

Papias didn't see or hear Jesus Christ personally. But he knew the Apostles such as John and other Bishops such as Polycarp. But, if the LDS Church believes the original Christian church fell into apostasy after the martyrdom of the Apostles, why would I quote someone after the Apostles? Because apostasy didn't happen overnight. And the LDS General Authorities have stated that the LDS Religion more closely resembles 1st-Century Christianity then 3rd-Century Christianity. This is an example of just what they mean.

In an excerpt believed to be from Papias' "Interpretations of the Saying of the Lord" in "Against Heresies" Papias describes the doctrine of the three degrees of glory in heaven which a unique doctrine to the LDS faith. Here is the exerpt:

As the presbyters say, then, those who are deemed worthy of an abode in heaven shall go there, others shall enjoy the delights of Paradise, and others shall possess the splendour of the city; (The new Jerusalem on earth) for everywhere the Saviour will be seen, according as they shall be worthy who see Him. But that there is this distinction between the habitation of those who produce an hundred-fold, and that of those who produce sixty-fold, and that of those who produce thirty-fold; for the first will be taken up into the heavens, the second class will dwell in Paradise, and the last will inhabit the city; and that on this account the Lord said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions:” for all things belong to God, who supplies all with a suitable dwelling-place, even as His word says, that a share is given to all by the Father, according as each one is or shall be worthy. And this is the couch in which they shall recline who feast, being invited to the wedding. The presbyters, the disciples of the apostles, say that this is the gradation and arrangement of those who are saved, and that they advance through steps of this nature; and that, moreover, they ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father; and that in due time the Son will yield up His work to the Father.

What Papias is describing is that the reward in heaven is not just heaven or hell. But each person will be rewarded based on their faithfulness in serving Christ. Some will be taken up into heaven, others will inherit Paradise and others will inherit the city. And then Papias says, this is what Christ meant when He said, "in my Father's house are many mansions." The Papias alludes to the marriage feast and the wise and the unwise virgins. All were believers, but only those who had extra oil for their lamps with them were permitted into the feast. The others will still receive a reward greater than that of the unbeliever, but less than that of the wise virgin.

But what does the New Testament say about this? Does the New Testament describe a gradation of reward between those that are valiant in their testimony of Christ in comparison to those who are honorable but only luke-warm? Yes it does. Paul explains about the resurrection to the Corinthian Saints:

1 Cor 15: 40-42 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory. So also is the resurrection of the dead.

Paul explains here that while there will be a literal physical resurrection of both the just and the unjust, the just and the unjust will not be raised to the same level of glory. Some will be raised to a celestial glory likened to the brightness of the sun. Others will be raised to a Terrestial glory likened to the brightness of the moon. And still others will be raised to a Telestial reward likened to the brightness and glory of the stars.

Again, the scriptures talk about a universal resurrection of the just and the unjust, and a salvation from hell by free grace by simply accepting Christ. But the Bible also differentiates between those who are neither hot, nor cold but lukewarm. In addition to differentiating between the wise and unwise virgins, Christ reinforces the lesson by foretelling that God will divide the sheep from the goats and between the productive and unproductive stewards. Both the sheep and the goats belong to the shepherd, but the sheep are obedient to and know the voice of the shepherd while the goats are not and do not.

Paul also makes a distinction here when he says that Christ was made higher than and given a more excellent name than the angels and then promises the faithful that they can be glorified together with Christ and made heirs of god and joint-heirs with Christ. Paul also uses the analogy of Abraham and his sons Isaac and Ishmael. Paul says that the faithful in Christ are considered children of the promise while those who are not faithful are called children of the bondwoman. Both Isaac and Ishmael were children of Abraham, but only one received the promise.

Gal. 4: 7 Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Several people have asked me if I thought Papias could be suggesting the possibility of progression between kingdoms. I had to re-read the passage a few times before I figured out the idea was coming from the last part which says our souls will "ascend through the Spirit to the Son, and through the Son to the Father." The progression Papias is talking about here is the progression of the Soul here on Earth before arriving at our final state as support for the 3 degrees of glory. The Earth and our souls are currently in a Telestial state and have access to a fullness of the Holy Ghost. In the Millennium (the New Jerusalem), the souls of man will be in a Terrestial State and we will dwell continually with and enjoy a fullness of Christ. After the Millennial period the earth and the souls who inherit it will become Celestialized and Christ will present us and the Earth to the Father to dwell in His Kingdom to enjoy the perpetual presence and fullness of the Father. That said, Christ has been and can be present in all 3 states of existence but those in the Telestial Kingdom will not enjoy the fullness or perpetual presence of Christ. This is because while those of a higher kingdom can visit a lower kingdom, those of a lower cannot have increase "worlds without end" (D&C 76: 112). Again, Papias is using this progression to support the idea that there are 3 final states of glory that man can receive. This is not saying that once assigned to a glory, that there is progression after the final judgement.
D&C 131: 4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.
Another person reading this scoffed at it and said this whole idea of rewards in heaven or different heaven was Gnostic heresy. Now the Gnostic movement did began in the 1st-Century AD. But there is a fundamental reason why the doctrine of the 3 degrees of glory cannot be Gnostic. Because Irenaeus gives this doctrine his stamp of approval in "Against Heresies" by saying that this doctrine is "as the presbyters say" which scholars attribute to Papias' "Interpretations of the Sayings of the Lord." Whether this doctrine was stated by Papias or not, it is not Gnostic, because almost everything we know about early Gnosticism comes from this very book by Irenaeus.


Eric Nielson said...

Very nicely done.

Does the statement of Papias offer the possibility of progressing between kingdoms in your view? I have been mostly leaning towards no progress between kingdoms, but who knows?

BRoz said...

no progression between kingdoms. Salvation without exaltation is damnation. But higher order beings can visit those of a lower order. That may be how eternal families remain intact in the case of a wayward member.

D&C 131: 4 He may enter into the other, but that is the end of his kingdom; he cannot have an increase.

D&C 76: 112 And they shall be servants of the Most High; but where God and Christ dwell they cannot come, worlds without end.

Eric Nielson said...

I think you have given the right answer.

Others have asked difficult questions in regards to this. If we maintain our free agency in a real way, then could they not progress (or digress) from one kingdom to another.

I currently accept no progress between kingdoms as the doctrine, but I don't clearly understand why - if free agency continues.

David Littlefield said...

Very Good!

Thank you!


Kris said...

If Christ's work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man, and we consider eternal life to mean exaltation, it would be easy to assume that Christ would keep working with us in the after-life to help us complete His work and His glory. He doesn't fail at too many works.
That's why I've leaned towards an eternal progression view.

Richard C. Shipp said...

Some have interpreted D&C 76 to say that the Telestial heirs never receive the gospel (ever). That is not true. D&C 138 clarifies that, (especially the last verses speaking of "heirs of salvation," which is the exact phrase D&C 76 uses to define those of the Telestial Kingdom). They have to have their sins washed clean in the blood of the Lamb to enter Heaven (Telestial Heaven, in the presence of God the Holy Ghost). No unclean thing can enter any heaven of God, hence Telestial have to be cleansed (through the ordinance of baptism).

Again, many scriptures teach this doctrine: Alma 5, Mosiah 3:19, Alma's declaration that all mankind must be born again, which always has three elements: water, blood, and Spirit. Water is baptism. You can't be born again without baptism. You can't enter the Fold of Christ without entering through the gate, which the Book of Mormon specifically teaches is "repentance and baptism." And if you are not in the Fold of Christ at the final judgment, "of what fold are ye? I say unto you that ye are of the fold of the devil, and he is your shepherd." Of course, if the devil is your shepherd, you will be cast out with the devil and his angels at the final judgment: these are sons of perdition only. These remain "natural men" in their sins, and "enemies to God." According to Mosiah 3:19, you either put off the natural man (by being born again), or you remain an enemy to God "forever and ever." None of God's enemies are redeemed, saved, or enter any heaven. In fact, in order to put off the natural man, you have to become a "Saint," having received and been sanctified by the Holy Spirit.

So, the conclusion the Scriptures lead one to is that ultimately all but perdition "put off the natural man" and are born again to enter Heaven. This is what Joseph Smith learned and recorded: that the Heaven of God was comprised of several glories, and all the inhabitants in any of these degrees were Saints. (See the Introduction to D&C 76.)

I wish you all the very best.

Richard C. Shipp

Richard C. Shipp said...

D&C 132 clarifies that "Eternal Lives" is the equivalent of exaltation, rather than "eternal life" — an important distinction.

2 Nephi 2:27-9 teaches that all men will either receive "eternal life" as their final reward (through Christ the Great Mediator), or they will receive "eternal death" (according to the will of the flesh and the evil therein, which will give the devil power to bring you down to hell where he will reign over you in his own kingdom). There is no third alternative. One or the other. Since only sons of perdition are in the latter category, being overcome by the devil, inheriting the second death, all others will inherit "eternal life." They are complementary opposites.

This is very different from the complementary opposites defined in D&C 132:21-5: "eternal lives" as opposed to "the deaths." All will suffer "the deaths" except those who are exalted.

Hence, the Scriptures present "eternal life" as the reward of all those found on the right hand of God in final judgment (see D&C 29:26-9,41-5). Only the sons of perdition will be found on God's left hand, to go away into everlasting punishment. Those on the left hand "cannot be redeemed from their spiritual fall," whereas "the righteous [Celestial, Terrestrial, and Telestial] shall be gathered on my right hand unto eternal life," as they are all saved, cleansed, and redeemed (D&C 76:36-8).

Compare D&C 138:57-9, only the dead who repent can or will be cleansed and redeemed. Telestial are redeemed, therefore they have first repented and then been cleansed from all their sins. You cannot enter heaven “in your sins,” neither can you be saved “in your sins,” (Alma 11:36-41, the righteous will be redeemed and receive “eternal life,” whereas the wicked will “remain as though there had been no redemption made,” except being resurrected unto eternal death). At the final judgment all will be pronounced either righteous (Celestial, Terrestrial, Telestial) or wicked (sons of perdition). The wicked are cast out with the devil, who has overcome them.

Richard C. Shipp said...

Final comment:

When a person is raised in the resurrection, they are "fired" (like clay is fired in a kiln) with a specific glory (Celestial, Terrestrial, or Telestial) or with no glory (sons of perdition). See D&C 88:25-32. Once "quickened" in the resurrection, that appears to be your eternal/unchangeable glory. A Terrestrial body cannot endure Celestial glory/fire, hence it appears they cannot progress from one kingdom to a higher.