The Bands of Death and the Chains of Hell

In Alma chapter 5, Alma gives one of his most famous sermons on having a “mighty change of heart” and receiving His image in our countenances.

He also mentions in that sermon, the “Bands of Death” and the “Chains of Hell”. What do these phrases mean, and what could they symbolize? I’d like to share my thoughts on the subject.

The Bands of Death

The bands of death represent the physical death we will experience. I picture a thick rubber band in my mind, although I’m sure Alma had a different image. The point is, the band is breakable, and has been broken. Who broke it and what does it mean? Christ broke the bands of death when he was resurrected. Because the bands are broken, death is now overcome. All of us will one day rise again after our physical death and receive a resurrected body. This is a free gift to all regardless of what we do in this life. That is why the band is broken, not simply stretched or loosed. The effects are permament.

The Chains of Hell

The chains of hell, on the other hand are not as breakable. In fact, in this analogy, they are never broken at all – only loosed. These chains refer to the bondage of our sin, and the effects of the atonement. Unlike the universal gift of resurrection given regardless of our performance, the atonement is only effectual to those who have faith and repent of their sins. In this way, the chains can be loosed and we can become free of our sins, but the chains are still there to grasp us again if we fall once more into sin. (Or I suppose you could also think of loosing the chains, and stepping out of their grasp, but if you fall into sin again, you’ll get re-lassoed.) It is all up to us whether we want to sin and be in chains, or repent and have them loosed. I suppose we can consider ourselves free from them completely after the Judgment (officially broken?).

3 thoughts on “The Bands of Death and the Chains of Hell”

  1. I wouldn’t place a big distinction between the terms Death and Hell. Hell often is merely a translation of Hades, the local of the dead. In the Bible you can look up the original Greek or Hebrew, but the BOM often uses biblical phraseology, where a study of the usage or context is required to arrive at a correct exegesis. When Hell is used in parallel with Death, the message, in all the scriptures, is simply ‘death’ or the local of the dead.

  2. @MahNahvu: Thank you for your comments. That’s an interesting insight. Alma certainly could have been referring to simply to ‘death’ in general, but his descriptions caused me to wonder if he was trying to making a distinction between physical and spiritual death. If they meant exactly the same thing, why would he have mentioned both separately (bands and chains / death and hell / physical and spiritual)?

    @Dustin: I suppose it would – those are good references. It’s interesting that Alma would refer to it different ways. I personally like the Alma 5:9 wording of having the bands broken (instead of loosed) because it makes it sound more like a done deal. There is no way you can be bound by physical death anymore! You will be resurrected. Having them loosed might imply that they could be tightened again. Just a thought.

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