“Question about the Nature of Humanity’s ‘First Estate’—Part Two”


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 of my answer, I laid out the larger picture of God’s plan of salvation and exaltation from the scriptures presently available to us. Now I will address where a “first estate” fits into that larger picture.

The context of Jude 1:6 concerns Jude’s warning to the saints about falling from grace: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ. I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, how the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterwards destroyed those who didn’t believe. And the angels who kept not their first estate but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness to the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication and going after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignitaries” (Jude 1:4–8; cf. 2 Peter 2:4).

The above “angels who kept not their first estate,” but who instead left their heavenly abode, appears to refer to certain “sons of God” who gave up their heavenly station to mate with the daughters of men: “And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair. And they took themselves wives of all whom they chose. . . . There were giants in the earth in those days. And also after that, when the sons of God came into the daughters of men, and bore children to them, the same became mighty men of old, men of renown” (Genesis 6:1, 3–4).

Determining a scriptural definition of the single term that is translated “first estate” in Jude 1:6 (Greek arche) first of all requires examining all its occurrences. All additional New Testament instances of the term arche, for example, whether singular or plural, refer to “principalities” and identify these with both righteous souls who have attained a high spiritual standing (Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; Colossians 2:9–10) and wicked souls in their satanic ranks (1 Corinthians 15:24; Ephesians 6:12; Colossians 2:15). A solitary but important Old Testament instance of the term “principalities” (Hebrew mar’ashot) occurs in Jeremiah: “Say to the king and queen, humble yourselves. Sit down, for your principalities shall come down, even your crown of glory” (Jeremiah 13:18). Jeremiah thus similarly associates this term with persons who had previously attained a high rank or “crown of glory.”

Second, determining a scriptural definition of the word arche further requires examining synonyms or terms directly identified with it. On the one hand, we thus find combinations of “principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named” (Ephesians 1:21); “principalities and powers in heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10); “thrones and dominions, principalities and powers” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:29); “kingdoms, principalities, and powers” (Doctrine & Covenants 128:23), and “thrones, or principalities, or powers, or things of name” (Doctrine & Covenants 132:13); and, on the other hand, “principalities, . . powers, . . rulers, . . spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12); and “principalities and powers” (Colossians 2:15). While a majority of instances of arche and its cognates thus refer to spiritual spheres, others refer earthly and demonic spheres.

A scriptural definition of “first estate” or “principality” (arche), therefore, associates it with souls who have attained a high standing, who are in a position to exercise power, might, or dominion, whether for good or for evil. We observe this also in the related Greek term archon, which refers to a “ruler” or “chief magistrate.” On the side of good, we find two additional associations set in two beautiful synonymous and chiastic parallels: “Let the sun, moon, and the morning stars sing together, and let all the sons of God shout for joy! And let the eternal creations declare his name forever and ever! And again I say, how glorious is the voice we hear from heaven, proclaiming in our ears, glory, and salvation, and honor, and immortality, and eternal life; kingdoms, principalities, and powers!” (Doctrine and Covenants 128:23; cf. Job 38:7).

These “morning stars” or “sons of God” declaring their glory reaffirms the idea that thus far, at least, they had attained a “first estate” or “principality.” Isaiah’s spiritual level of souls whom he defines as sons/servants of God compares with the celestial nature of such souls. That spiritual category, however, is attained in two phases, the first conditional—upon a person’s keeping God’s laws pertaining to a celestial level; the second unconditional or “everlasting”—upon the person’s passing the trial of their faith.

It seems evident, therefore, that the “angels,” “sons of God,” or “morning stars” who fell were of a lower celestial category that sought to take a shortcut to eternal life and unconditional glory in their quest to attain a higher principality or “second estate.” The context of Jude’s warning—in which he associates the fallen angels with historical examples of “lasciviousness,” “fornication,” and “going after strange flesh”—strongly supports that idea. Of course, to experience sexual intercourse with earthbound womankind, these “angels” or “sons of God” must have acquired physical bodies beforehand or there would have been no point in conceiving such an idea.

Jeremiah’s warning to persons of high or royal standing, moreover—“Your principalities shall come down, even your crown of glory” (Jeremiah 13:18)—affirms the fact, as Jude does, that souls can lose degrees of glory they had formerly attained. King David provides an instance of a person’s having “fallen from his exaltation” after he had previously attained it (Doctrine & Covenants 132:39; cf. 20:32). Even on the most basic spiritual level of salvation, for example—as when a person receives forgiveness of sins—he must “retain a remission of your sins” or he will fall back to an unsaved state (Mosiah 4:11–12).

A well-known example of losing a state of glory is “Lucifer, a son of the morning” (heleil ben-shachar; also “morning star, son of the dawn”), who falls from heaven (Isaiah 14:12). Isaiah, however, identifies him with the end-time king of Assyria/Babylon—a physical “man”—who, after he conquers the world, ends up in the lowest hell, his unburied corpse putrefying on the earth (Isaiah 14:3–19).

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