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Multiple Kingdoms Of Heaven In Early Christianity


Joseph Antley

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I've read several quotes from early Christian writers about heaven containing multiple kingdoms. I particularly remember a fragment of Papias where he discusses heaven being separated into three kingdoms.

I couldn't find anything on FAIR or FARMS about it. Anyone know of any papers about this, or know any early Christian quotes directly?

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I couldn't find anything on FAIR or FARMS about it.

Here is Barry Bickmore's Restoring the Ancient Church

He gathers quite a few of them together. Here are some...

Our understanding of the passage [1 Corinthians 15:40-42] indeed is, that the Apostle, wishing to describe the great difference among those who rise in glory, i.e., of the saints, barrowed a comparison from the heavenly bodies, saying, "One glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, another glory of the stars." Origen, De Principiis 2:10:2, in ANF 4:294

"And some are connected with the Father, being part of Him, and next to these, those whom our argument now brings into clearer light, those who have come to the Saviour and take their stand entirely with him. And third are those of whom we spoke, who reckon the sun and the moon and the stars to be gods, and take their stand by them. And in the fourth and last place those who submit to soulless and dead idols." Origen, Commentary on John 2:3, in ANF 10:324-325

"And having said this, he ascends again to the heaven, saying, "There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon." For as in earthly bodies there is a difference, so also in the heavenly; and that difference no ordinary one, but reaching even to the uttermost: there being not only a difference betwen the sun and moon, and stars, but also between stars and stars. For what though they be all in the heaven? yet some have a larger, others a less share of glory. What do we learn from hence? That although they be all in God's kingdom, all shall not enjoy the same reward; and though all sinners be in hell, all shall not endure the same punishment." John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:4, in NPNF Series 1, 12:251

[Clement of Alexandria] reckons three kinds of actions, the first of which is ...right or perfect action, which is characteristic of the perfect man and Gnostic alone, and raises him to the height of glory. The second is the class of...medium, or intermediate actions, which are done by less perfect believers, and procure a lower grade of glory. In the third place, he reckons sinful actions, which are done by those who fall away from salvation. Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6:14, in ANF 2:506

"Conformably, therefore, there are various abodes, according to the worth of those who have believed... These chosen abodes, which are three, are indicated by the numbers in the Gospel--the thirty, the sixty, the hundred. And the perfect inheritance belongs to those who attain to "a perfect man," according to the image of the Lord... To the likeness of God, then, he that is introduced into adoption and the friendship of God, to the just inheritance of the lords and gods is brought; if he be perfected, according to the Gospel, as the Lord Himself taught." Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 6.14 (ANF 2:506).

"This hidden world includes first of all the heavens. Of these, traditional Judaism knew only three: the heaven of meteors, the heaven of stars and the heaven of God, and this is the scheme employed in the older Jewish apocalyptic. It is this system to which Paul alludes." Some Jewish Christians elaborated the three-heaven system into one of seven or more heavens, but in all cases, beings of various degrees of glory were thought to inhabit them." Jean Dani

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The Fathers did not teach that there are 3 heavens as the Mormons do. This is eisegesis. You are trying to read your doctrine into what they believed. If you read them in full you will find they were not Mormons. In fact they lived after Mormons say the Church apostatized (which none can agree on what date that occurred). Yet they quote them as authorities here. As always Mormons take something that sounds familiar and read into it something that Smith thought up. They do not define terms the same way Christians do. There is only one heaven which the saved enjoy according to their ability. So there are as many different degrees of glory as there are people in heaven.

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No problem. For example Mormons will say "we believe in the Trinity", but that doesn't mean what we mean when we say "Trinity." This makes discussion extremely difficult.

And when you say "Trinity," it doesn't mean exactly what it means to an Eastern Orthodox individual. What's your point?

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The Fathers did not teach that there are 3 heavens as the Mormons do.

Actually they did as you can plainly see. I've also checked the context on many of these myself. They were remarkably close, if not spot on, to LDS doctrine which is not suprising considering our claims of Restoration.

This is eisegesis. You are trying to read your doctrine into what they believed.

Examples?

If you read them in full you will find they were not Mormons.

Indeed. They were apostate christians who, as the years went by, taught progressively less and less Biblical doctrine. But the fact remains that the closer you get to NT times, the more LDS doctrine one finds among them, just as one would expect from a Bible predicted universal apostasy.

In fact they lived after Mormons say the Church apostatized (which none can agree on what date that occurred).

Generally correct though I don't think the Church makes an exact statement as to when.

Yet they quote them as authorities here.

Incorrect. We DO quote tham as YOUR authorities (under the assumption that you don't accept the universal apostasy, they, or at least some of them, must be your authorities). But largely we quote them as examples of the universal apostasy. They fit the pattern. We do not however, use them to show our doctrine.

As always Mormons take something that sounds familiar and read into it something that Smith thought up.

It certainly isn't a coincidence that JS restored some of the same beliefs the ECF held. It's what one would expect if there was a universal apostasy.

They do not define terms the same way Christians do. There is only one heaven which the saved enjoy according to their ability. So there are as many different degrees of glory as there are people in heaven.

LDS certainly do speak of one kingdom of heaven divided into degrees, even as many degrees as there are people (D&C 76:98 etc.) so I think you are wrong on that account. But where you and I differ elsewhere is critical because it is only our doctrine that is not contradicted by the Bible.

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One of the issues here is that there really isn't much of a consensus in early Christian literature as to the nature of the heavens and how many there were. Some of the ideas seem to come from Judaism. There were three heavens, then seven, and then 10 and even 11 or more. This is seen in the Christian reworking of the Enoch literature, in other Christian texts like the Acension of Isaiah, the Christianized Testaments of the 12 Patriarchs, and so on. These were (in disagreement with ohwell) merely differences of people in a single kingdom of heaven, but rather entirely different levels of heaven - usually described alongside the mechanics of the process needed to move from one layer of heaven to the next. God is usually at the highest (or innermost) layer of heaven. And many of the texts often describe differences in the heavenly beings from one kingdom to the next.

This of course never rose to the level of orthodox teachings for the most part (although it persisted for a very long time - consider Dante's Divine Comedy as an example of popular belief). But, it was widely believed in early Christianity as evidenced by the broad spectrum of literature containing this belief, and the time periods which these texts cover. Of course orthodoxy is hard to gauge, since, these texts were often used by the early fathers of teh church. Jerome, for example, refers to the Testament of Isaiah, while Epiphanius quotes from it. The Acts of Peter also seems to quote it, and there are similarities between it and the Protevangelium of James. (Charles also claims that its quoted by Ignatius, but it can be hard to tell But, widespread and continued use of these traditions indicates that there was something along these lines that persisted in Christian thought for at least a millenia and a half.

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To Duncan -

Eisegesis means personal exposition. Exegesis means factual interpretation. What ohwell is trying to claim is that he can produce exegesis, but the rest of us can not. It really cuts both ways. What I do is exegesis. What he does is Eisegesis. His claims of what the early fathers taught is at least as rooted in his personal beliefs as any of the rest of us.

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The Fathers did not teach that there are 3 heavens as the Mormons do. This is eisegesis. You are trying to read your doctrine into what they believed. If you read them in full you will find they were not Mormons. In fact they lived after Mormons say the Church apostatized (which none can agree on what date that occurred). Yet they quote them as authorities here. As always Mormons take something that sounds familiar and read into it something that Smith thought up. They do not define terms the same way Christians do. There is only one heaven which the saved enjoy according to their ability. So there are as many different degrees of glory as there are people in heaven.

Just because we believe the Church fell away from the fulness of the truth, does not mean that it lost all truth. And the early Christians and Jews DID believe in multiple heavens. Interestingly, their cosmology is similar to Mormonism. The writings of Enoch has Enoch going through several levels of heaven, which include the cosmos as they then knew it. Many anti-Mormons use this as "evidence" that we are talking about different "heavens." But we aren't. Mormonism believes that heaven(s) are within the cosmos we know of, that this earth will some day be a part of the Celestial Kingdom, and that the other planets and stars are all part and parcel of God's kingdoms (see Abraham 3-4).

The Apocalypse of Paul (Nag Hammadi Library) has Paul taken to an exceeding high mountain. Upon the mountain, the Holy Ghost appears to him as a small child, then leads him through the levels of heaven (10 in this story). He briefly describes several of the levels.

On the sixth he sees the toll collector, and on the seventh level, he is stopped by a sentinel, who challenges him on why he should be allowed to go forward. The Holy Ghost tells Paul to give the sentinel the sign he has, upon which the sentinel allows him to pass upward. Paul then tells us that he quickly rushes up through the 8th and 9th heavens, and finds the believing saints waiting for him on the 10th.

Not only does this distinctly show levels of heaven, but it also shows what Brigham Young said about the temple endowment: that it gives us the tokens and symbols needed to pass by the sentinels and angels on our way to God's presence.

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No problem. For example Mormons will say "we believe in the Trinity", but that doesn't mean what we mean when we say "Trinity." This makes discussion extremely difficult.

We all use terms that can mean different things to different people. "Saved by grace" is different for a Roman Catholic than to a Methodist than to a Mormon. There are traditional Christians who believe in a social Trinity, much as Mormons do. Most traditional trinitarians actually believe in a form of modalism, rather than the official definition of Trinitarian belief (modalism was condemned by St Augustine), but still call themselves "trinitarians." Baptism can mean immersion, sprinkling, or just an inward acceptance.

Why is it that Mormons must use your version of terminology, especially when there are so many others that use such terminology in various ways? Do you have a special dispensation from God that states we must use only a certain viewpoint? If we were to use traditional Trinitarian verbiage and definitions, then Mormons would have to confess that they are not Christian! I refuse to accept that concept, just as I refuse to say that I am not a "social" Trinitarian.

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