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?).