Summary: When we speak of being saved, what most people understand that means we get to go to heaven, and what Protestant Christians usually believe is that to be saved all we have to do is acknowledge God’s Son as our Savior. For doing that, God will graciously consent to allow us to live with him in heaven. However, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that we are children of God, and as such are entitled to an inheritance from God, our father. This article explains what that inheritance is.
In the thirteenth chapter of 1 Nephi we read “And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb” (verse 37).
According to what Christians believe, salvation means being saved into the kingdom of God, and the kingdom of God is understood to be heaven. Therefore, when we speak of being saved, what most people understand that to mean is that we go to heaven, either when we die, or at the time when we’re resurrected, depending on what our personal beliefs are.
The word “God” (or god) refers to a being who is superior in power and glory to man, and who exercises authority over man. As such, God expect us to worship him as a sign of our obedience and respect for him. What Protestant Christians believe is that if we will acknowledge God’s right to rule over us that he will graciously consent to allow us to live with him in heaven.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints also believe that salvation consists of living in heaven with God, however, they do not believe that God is an incorporeal spirit who has neither a body, parts nor shape. Instead, when Latter-day Saints speak of God, they are referring to an exalted being who created us as spirit children in his own human image, where we lived with him in heaven before being born here on earth. This is why we refer to God.as our Father in heaven. And it is because we are his children, this is why we are to worship, obey, and respect him. Just like all earthly fathers have power and dominion over their children and are far wiser than them, so likewise our Father in heaven exercises power and dominion over us, his children, and why he is far wiser than we are.
However, heaven is also described as “the kingdom of God,” which means that heaven isn’t just some nice place to live. It is a kingdom, and all kingdoms are ruled over by a king. Since God is our Father who lives in heaven, and heaven is the kingdom of God, therefore, our Father is also a king, which makes us the sons and daughters of a king.
Unlike servants or friends, children are entitled to an inheritance from their father. That means a father can bequeath to his children any and all things that belongs to him, but it is the father who determines what each child gets to inherit. When speaking about salvation, the scriptures repeatedly tell us that we will “inherit the kingdom of God.” Since God, our Father, is the king of heaven, and we have been promised an inheritance in the kingdom of God, the clear implication is that we will rule and reign in heaven along with our Father. And, in fact, this is what the scriptures teach, as we will see.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teach that when that happens, we will inherit all the glory, majesty, dominion, power, and might that God possesses, and when that happens then we too will become gods ourselves. However, there are Protestants who feel that such a doctrine is blasphemous because they interpret this to mean that when we become a god that we will no longer need to be obedient to our Father in heaven since we will be equal to him. To them that means we will no longer need him and can therefore disregard anything he tells us. To understand the answer to this criticism, all we have to do is look how earthly fathers and their children relate to one another.
While children are living at home, they are expected to honor and obey their parents. In return righteous fathers provide shelter for their children, work at jobs so they can afford to provide for the needs of their children, and they teach their children everything they can, whether through personal instruction or through some form of schooling. A father’s goal is not to have their children stay at home forever, but rather it is the hope of every father that someday each of their children will be able to live on their own, where they will be successfully employed, enjoy a comfortable lifestyle, and be able to raise their own children. In other words, parents teach their children how to someday do what they themselves are currently doing.
It’s after a child leaves home that they start behaving just like their parents, where they are able to enjoy all the freedom, responsibilities, and opportunities that their parents are able to enjoy. However, to be successful at that they must learn to make wise decisions, therefore, while children are still living at home, righteous parents try to teach their children how to make good decisions so that when they move out on their own they will continue to make the kind of decision that will bring them joy and happiness throughout the remainder of their adult life.
But once children leave home, rather than having less respect for their parents, quite often they have even greater respect for them because they now know with greater clarity, what their parent went through to care for them. Although they may no longer need to obey their parents as they once did while living at home, yet they still honor their parents and do so even more when they are no longer living under their rule. Many adults look back on their growing years with more fondness than they did when they were living with their parents. And this same principle applies to when we inherit the kingdom of God.
As his children, God, our Father, gives us commands that he expects us to obey, but very often we have a tendency to rebel at doing what he tells us. We either try to justify not doing what he says, or we try to fudge on doing it. In that respect, we behave just like children. But when the time comes that we have matured to the point where we can inherit all that our Father has, and rule with him and become like him, we will have a much greater appreciation, respect, and love for him than we do now. Far from thinking that we no longer need God in our life, we will be eternally grateful for all he did for us and will forever want to show him how much we love and adore him.
However, such a belief implies that there are many gods in heaven, and, in fact, members of Christ’s restored church, are taught that there are already many exalted beings in heaven who are gods besides our Father. Then are we to worship and obey all of them?
The scriptures tell us that children are to honor and obey their parents. There are hundreds of millions of parents in the world today and what makes them parents is that they all have children. The command God has given us isn’t that we should obey all parents everywhere but rather that children are to obey their own parents. In the same way, although there may be many gods, but to us, there is only one God – our Father in heaven (1 Corinthians 1:6) – and it is he who we are to listen to and obey.
But if we too are destined to become gods in the kingdom of heaven, does that mean we will all be governing the same kingdom? If we look at our life here on earth, we again see the pattern that exists in heaven. For example, when children become parents themselves, do they govern the same household they grew up in? Of course not. They govern their own families, and their children are expected to obey them, while still respecting their grandparents, aunts, and uncles.
When there is a group of people living together, that is called a society, and in order for every society to exist in peace and harmony there has to be some sort of governing system. In the home, that system of governing is very simple. The father presides along with his wife to set the rules and enforce discipline to ensure domestic tranquility, But, when there are multiple families living together, there has to be a different kind of governing system.
A kingdom is a system of government, that is presided over by a king, who makes the rules and enforces disciple for the safety and well-being of all who live within his kingdom. When we become exalted, there will be millions of such beings ruling as heavenly kings, and since that is the definition of a society, there will have to be some sort of system in place to govern over all of them.
In discussing the vision he saw as recorded in the thirteenth chapter of 1 Nephi, Nephi said that those who have endure to the end “shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.”
The scriptures tell us that Jesus has been exalted and sits on the right hand of God, the Father (Acts 2:3; 1 Peter 3:2), so he too is a God, just like his Father, but it is interesting to note that Nephi didn’t say that we shall be saved in the kingdom of God. If he did, we could assume that he’s talking about the kingdom of our Father in heaven. However, Nephi explicitly said that we will be saved in the “kingdom of the Lamb.” Of course, “the Lamb” is Jesus Christ, so we could accurately say that we will be saved in the everlasting kingdom of Jesus Christ.
What that means is that Jesus will have his own kingdom that is separate and distinct from his Father. In that kingdom, Jesus will be its king. He will be the one who sets the rules, gives the commandments, issues the edicts, and enforces the discipline. What Nephi saw was that those who have been faithful in keeping God’s commandments will be saved, not so much in the kingdom of God, our Father in heaven, but saved or be allowed to dwell as exalted beings in the kingdom of Christ.
Although we will be given a crown and sit on thrones, and rule over our own kingdom, yet we will do so as part of Christ’s kingdom. In other words, we will not rule and reign independently of Christ. Rather, we will rule as gods, kings, and priests under the direction of and in subjection unto Christ (see Revelation 1:6, 5:10).
We see an example of this in the Book of Mormon where we read of Ammon who went among the Lamanites to preach the gospel of Christ. He was captured and brought before King Lamoni who made him a servant. However, there were other kings among the Lamanites, and we’re told that the chief king who had authority over all the other kings was Lamoni’s father.
In Medieval times a king usually ruled over an entire country, but he appointed Dukes or Barons or other titles of nobility to govern parts of his land. Although these noblemen had the authority to govern their assigned property pretty much as they wanted, yet they were still subject to the king and governed at his pleasure. If the king ever became displeased with how they managed what he had entrusted to them, they would be relieved of their authority. In the same way, someone can be a god, and have authority to rule over their own particular kingdom yet, as part of the kingdom of Christ, they do so under the approval and direction of Jesus himself.
But this should not be a surprise to Christians because we’re already doing this. Jesus started many of his parables by saying, “heaven is like,” and then would tell a story that illustrated what it’s like in heaven. In his parables Jesus likened himself to the master of a household or the owner of slaves, or as a bridegroom with us as his servants or wife. And, indeed, all of the apostles referred to themselves as “a servant of Christ”
But there is another word that Nephi uses that is important for us to take note of. He said that we will “be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.” Once we become part of Christ’s kingdom we will remain there as his subjects, serving him throughout all of eternity. Even though we might become gods and kings ourselves, inheriting the same power, majesty, and dominion that our Father in heaven has, yet we will always remain in subjection to Christ and will be required to hearken unto his voice and obey him eternally.
Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15), “and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him” (John 14:21). He also said that if we keep his commandment, he will abide in us (1 John 3:24). But if we are not willing to keep his commandments now, as a sign of our love for him, then we’re also showing that we’re not really interested in abiding with him forever.
Heaven is not some place where we will sit around all day doing nothing. Heaven is a place of work! There are things that need to be done, and as the servants of God we will be called upon to help accomplish that work. As an everlasting king, Jesus will eternally continue to give commands that he will expect us to be glad to keep. If we don’t find joy in serving Christ now, neither will we find joy in serving him throughout all of eternity.
Jesus asks, “Who wants to come live with me?” Many people say they do because they think that living in a place of never-ending happiness sound like an easy life, but Jesus tests the sincerity of those who come forward with a profession of faith in him. We can think of him as holding an audition where he’s looking to see who will sincerely keep his commandments, even when it’s hard to do, and who will give up when it’s not convenient for them.
This was the meaning of the parable of the sower, where a farmer went out to sow seed. Some of his seed fell along the path and the birds ate them up. Others fell on stony ground and because they had no roots, they withered and died under the heat of the sun. Others fell among thorns which choked the seed as it began to sprout. And then there were others that fell on good soil and sprang forth, producing abundant fruit (Matthew 13:3-9).
There are many who answer the call to join Christ’s kingdom, but few are chosen to enter into it, not because Jesus doesn’t want them to but because they’re not willing to do what he asks of them. Only those who endure to the end in being faithful to Christ are capable of enduring an eternity of following him.
This is why Jesus taught, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad” (Matthew 5:10-12).
This is also what Jesus was referring to when he told the early saints, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne… Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out” (Revelation 3:21,12).
This is what Nephi was trying to explain when he said, “Blessed are they who…endure to the end [for only] they shall be… saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb.”
Related articles can be found at The Nature of Heaven