Early in His mortal ministry, Jesus taught a group of people about the authority the Father had given to Him, including the responsibility to judge us after we die:
For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;
And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice,
And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation (John 5:26-29).
What is the “resurrection of damnation?”
During His ministry on the American continent, the Savior elaborated on the distinction between these two resurrections. Mormon tells us that, after quoting two chapters from Malachi, He “did expound all things unto them,” including:
The great and last day, when all people, and all kindreds, and all nations and tongues shall stand before God, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—
If they be good, to the resurrection of everlasting life; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of damnation; being on a parallel, the one on the one hand and the other on the other hand (3 Nephi 26:4-5).
This terminology may have already been familiar to His listeners, since the prophet Abinadi had defined these two resurrections during his sermon to the priests of King Noah:
Even this mortal shall put on immortality, and this corruption shall put on incorruption, and shall be brought to stand before the bar of God, to be judged of him according to their works whether they be good or whether they be evil—
If they be good, to the resurrection of endless life and happiness; and if they be evil, to the resurrection of endless damnation, being delivered up to the devil, who hath subjected them, which is damnation (Mosiah 16:10-11).
As mortals, we are all subject to physical death: the separation of our spirit from our body. As Alma and Amulek taught the people in Ammonihah, we will all be resurrected: Our spirits and our bodies will be reunited at some point after our death (Alma 11:42-45).
We are also subject to spiritual death: our separation from God and from His influences. When we choose to sin or to rebel against God, we lose His power in our lives. Just as our body is lifeless without our spirit, we become less alive as we distance ourselves from God.
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, we will all overcome physical death. But we must choose to accept His grace and be transformed in order to remain in the presence of God at the Final Judgment. As Alma taught, if we have not repented, if we are not prepared, then after being resurrected and being brought back into God’s presence, we will find that we are unable to remain there:
Then cometh a death, even a second death, which is a spiritual death; then is a time that whosoever dieth in his sins, as to a temporal death, shall also die a spiritual death; yea, he shall die as to things pertaining unto righteousness (Alma 12:16).
This is the resurrection of damnation. It is to overcome physical death but not to overcome spiritual death.
The Guide to the Scriptures teaches that damnation is “the state of being stopped in one’s progress and denied access to the presence of God and His glory…. All who do not obtain the fulness of celestial exaltation will to some degree be limited in their progress and privileges, and they will be damned to that extent.”
Today, I will remember that God has prepared a way for me to overcome both physical and spiritual death. I will be grateful that, because of Jesus Christ, I will live again after I am dead. I will strive to repent and receive His redeeming power, so that I can also overcome spiritual death and live forever in God’s presence.