I was reading Alma 40 today, and felt that I would better understand what the author was saying if I were to repeat it in my own words. So here’s my version of what Alma says in Alma 40:
I perceive that you are worried about the resurrection of the dead. Perhaps you’ve seen bones of people who have been dead a long time, and are worried about whether the resurrection is even real.
The resurrection is not yet. There is no resurrection until after the coming of Christ—he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead. Everyone will rise from the dead at a time appointed time. When this time comes no one knows except God. He knows when each and every person will rise from the dead.
We hear the phrase, “the first resurrection.” What does this mean? It means the reuniting of the soul with the body of those from the days of Adam down to the resurrection of Christ. We don’t know if this means that everyone who died during this time will be resurrected all at once, or if it just the righteous will be. We don’t know if this will happen at the resurrection of Christ, or if it will happen later. I give it as my opinion, however, that just the righteous who lived during that time will be resurrected during the first resurrection, and that the wicked who died during that time will have to wait until later, and that the first resurrection will take place at the resurrection of Christ and His ascension into heaven.
Now, we don’t know if there’s a “second resurrection,” or a “third resurrection,” or what not. All we know for sure is that everyone will be resurrected at some point, and that God knows and is in control of who gets resurrected when. However, we don’t die all at once, so it makes sense that we aren’t resurrected all at once. It makes sense that we are resurrected over time.
But, given what we do know, there’s clearly a space of time between an individual’s death and resurrection. For many people, such as those who lived before Christ, this period of time has been centuries. My question is, “What happens to the soul between death and the resurrection?” Were all these people just waiting around as ghosts? Are they just asleep until then? So I’ve asked God, and prayed that He would tell me this secret.
In response, an angel came to me and told me what happens to people between death and the resurrection. Everybody who dies, good or evil, are immediately taken back to God. Then, they are divided.
The spirits of those who are righteous are received into a state of happiness, a state of peace, where they shall rest from all their troubles and from all care and sorrow. We call this paradise.
The spirits of the wicked shall be cast out into darkness, where they will experience a state fear and awful dread for the judgment of God. There, they will weep because of their own iniquity. We call this hell.
Thus they remain in this state, as well as the righteous in paradise, until the time of their resurrection.
In summary, there is a space between death and the resurrection. During this time, the soul experiences either happiness or misery until it is their turn to be resurrected. At that time, the soul shall be restored to the body, and the body to the soul. Every limb and joint shall be restored, and even a hair of the head shall not be lost. Every person, righteous or wicked, will received a perfect, complete body.
Then, each person (spirit and body) will be brought before God and judged.
This is pretty straightfoward. But there’s one insight I gleaned that I never really thought about before. Nobody knows when they are going to die. How much time we have in this life is really up to God. Everybody dies at different times, and lives varying lengths of life.
Alma draws a comparison between death and the resurrection—not everyone dies at once, so it’s certainly possible that not everyone is resurrected at once. But then he keeps emphasizing that only God knows when we will be resurrected. That seems to parallel a lot of our rhetoric about death—only God knows when we will die. Could it be that those in the Spirit World don’t even know when they’ll be resurrected? Could it be that resurrected sometimes comes as a surprise to them just as much as death comes to us?
Another thought: mortal life has a quick turnover. Every 80-90 years, we have a whole new batch of people on the planet. People are coming and going, and nobody stays for long. Could the Spirit World be the same? Could people be coming and going in the Spirit World? Could our “spirit world lifespans” have different times? Could there be a turnover in the Spirit World just like there is on Earth? Could it be that, like mortal life, nobody really knows when their ministry in the Spirit World will end, and when they’ll be resurrected and brought before God for Final Judgment?