Question: Does the “first estate” mentioned in Jude 1:6 and “second estate” in Abraham 3:26 mean that God’s children get just one chance at eternal life, or are there multiple mortalities or probationary states?
Answer: In Part One, I laid out the larger picture of God’s plan of salvation and exaltation from scriptures presently available. In Part Two, I showed from the scriptures where a “first estate” fits into that general picture. I will now examine how God’s children attain the category of “sons of God” by its scriptural definition.
Before doing so, I will restate how, in Part Two—through a process of analyzing all scriptures relating to this topic—we discovered that the spiritual category of “angels who kept not their first estate but left their own habitation” (Jude 1:6) was the same as that of “sons of God” (alias “morning stars”) who transgressed God’s order by mating with the daughters of men. The above scriptural evidence, therefore, overturns the “precept of men” that assumes the “first estate” is simply “the spirit world,” home of the spirits of God’s children prior to their receiving a mortal experience on earth.
The question now remains of how these “angels,” “sons of God,” or “morning stars”—whom the scriptures identify as exalted beings—attained a “first estate” or “principality” (Greek arche) but then failed to “keep” or retain it. How did these souls reach that high stature in the first place, and was there a common denominator in their fall? These questions could additionally answer why their punishment—of “everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6)—was so severe, something one would not expect with the spirits of God’s children who had but little experience with the heavenly order.
Worthy of distinction, moreover, is that not all who come into this life already belong in the category of “sons of God.” On Isaiah’s ladder to heaven, for example, the spiritual category of sons/servants of God equates with a celestial level, while the level below it—Zion/Jerusalem—is terrestrial; and the one below that—Jacob/Israel—telestial. It is thus on a terrestrial level that we receive a remission of our sins through Jesus’ infinite atonement for transgression. As with the people of King Benjamin, it is after obtaining salvation from sin that we become “sons and daughters of Christ” (Mosiah 5:7–8). From that point on, we are in a position to advance further to glory or exaltation as “sons of God”—the Father.
Indeed, the highest spiritual quest for most persons who come into this life is to attain a degree of glory or exaltation. Toward that end, the scriptures point the way: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the life and the light of the world. I am the same who came unto mine own and mine own received me not; But verily, verily, I say unto you, that as many as receive me, to them will I give power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on my name” (Doctrine & Covenants 11:28–30; cf. 34:3; John 1:12; 3 Nephi 9:17; Moses 7:1).
Importantly, “receiving” Jesus and “believing on his name” is a spiritual process: “By the ministering of angels, and by every word which proceeded forth out of the mouth of God, men began to exercise faith in Christ; and thus by faith, they did lay hold upon every good thing; and thus it was until the coming of Christ. And after that he came men also were saved by faith in his name; and by faith, they become the sons of God” (Moroni 7:25–26); “Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen” (Moroni 7:48).
As Jesus tells us, “receiving” him and “believing on his name” leads to becoming one with him as well as endowed of him to exercise God’s power: “Unto as many as received me gave I power to do many miracles, and to become the sons of God; and even unto them that believed on my name gave I power to obtain eternal life” (Doctrine & Covenants 45:8); “I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one” (Doctrine & Covenants 35:2).
Ultimately, becoming “sons of God” leads to becoming his “heirs” or “gods” in our own right: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore you are no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:6–7); “They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things—They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fulness, and of his glory; 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. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God” (Doctrine & Covenants 76:54–58).
Conversely, as noted, the scriptural examples we examined of fallen “angels” and “sons of God” show that even persons who attain a high degree of glory can yet fall, losing the “first estate” or “principality” (arche) they had so painstakingly won. Of King David, for example—who had “fallen from his exaltation” (Doctrine & Covenants 132:39)—Joseph Smith stated, “Although David was a king, he never did obtain the spirit and power of Elijah and the fullness of the Priesthood; and the Priesthood that he received, and the throne and kingdom of David is to be taken from him and given to another by the name of David in the last days, raised up out of his lineage (TPJS 339).
Joseph Smith’s definition of the “fulness of the Priesthood”—as distinct from the Melchizedek priesthood in general—he thus views as synonymous with the “spirit and power of Elijah.” That is, the spirit and power of translated beings, such as Elijah, who become gods in their own right. As we saw earlier, to his three Nephite disciples who were translated Jesus gave a firm promise that they would become “even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one” (3 Nephi 28:10). In other words, as translated beings they had reached a stage in their spiritual journey that seems to lie beyond the likelihood falling from it.
Notably, the test of his faith that David failed—through which he could have attained a translated state or the “spirit and power of Elijah”—had to do with Uriah’s wife, Bathsheba, and how he went about taking her. It thus seems no coincidence that God’s tests of the fallen “angels,” “sons of God,” and King David were similar in nature. Whether on this side or on God’s side of the veil, they ended up losing their “first estate” or “principality” on account of impatience to obtain their desire.