- Religion and Philosophy»
- Exploring Religious Options
Is Heaven the Eternal Abode of God's People (i.e., Christians, Jews & Muslims, If You Will)?
Since the Dawn of Creation
Since the dawn of creation, men have had a relationship with his Creator. However, that relationship came into a state of disrepair because of man's sins. What exactly are these sins? Sin is in fact a violation or transgression of God's Laws. Men who break or violate God's Laws enter into a state of alienation from God. The first sin came into the world through Adam, the first man created by God (Genesis 2:1-16). Adam had a close and intimate relationship with his Maker, until he disobeyed God by eating from the forbidden fruit (i.e., the fruit which opened man's eyes as to good and evil). Once he had partaken of this fruit, he and his mate, Eve, entered into conflict with God. How can man live with God, if he is in a state of conflict, or the more important question is, why would man want to live with God, if they cannot see eye to eye, if you will?
It is natural desire for a child to want to stay with their parents until they reach that age of independence, and cultivate a desire to explore the world, or in the case of the first man, Adam, God's creation on his own terms. However, Adam never had the opportunity to grow and mature, and reach the stage of independence. Satan interrupted the process of development and maturity, and by prematurely causing Adam to enter into conflict with his Father (i.e., caused Adam to sin by disobeying God's commandment). As a result of Adam's disobedience, he and his mate were cast out of God's presence (i.e., their home, the Garden of Eden). God inflicted a severe punishment on Adam, and advised him that his eternal life (conditional in nature) was no more. He told Adam that his sins had brought a wedge between them, and that he Adam could no longer commune as he once did with his Father. Adam's separation from God was permanent, and that separation extended to the descendants of Adam.
Man Longs For A Heavenly Abode
Man's desire to ascend to Heaven is probably fueled by his separation from God after the "Great Fall". Man has always had a desire to get back to God to learn from his Creator what was interrupted by sin. Despite his desire to be reconciled to God, man's sin continues to keep him from having the relationship that he wants to have with God. Man cannot enter into God's presence while sin covers his body. Thus, God had to provide a pathway or bridge that allowed man to come back to Him. The pathway or bridge came in the form of Jesus Christ. God offered his Son as a sacrificial lamb to be slaughtered for the sins of mankind. The Son of God was led by sinful men to the Cross of Calvary, and crucified. He took on all of mankind's sins and paid the ultimate price for them with his death on the Cross. His blood which was shed became symbolic of cleansing water that took away man's sins. Thus, the wedge that kept man from God was permanently removed. God again made it possible for man to come back to him via accepting the amnesty offered through God the Son (see John 3:16). Now that the wedge (sin) was permanently removed by Christ's sacrifice, did that mean that man is now allowed to be with God, even allowed to enter Heaven, God's home?
Despite man's long desire to be with God, and commune with Him as Adam once did in the Garden of Eden, there is no biblical evidence pointing to the fact that man will enter Heaven, and live there for eternity. Also, the Bible refutes the notion that any human, other than Jesus Christ, has ever entered into Heaven (see John 3:13). Most biblical scholars would readily admit that man has never, and probably will never enter into Heaven. The Garden of Eden (sometimes referred to as "Paradise") was not in Heaven, but created on earth for man. The Bible implies that the earth was the home of man. Is it at all possible for man to have a relationship with God without entering into Heaven? The Bible states that Adam never ascended to Heaven to commune with God, but rather God came down to earth to commune with Adam. God often walked through the Garden of Eden during his times of communing with man; it is not implied that man walked throughout Heaven while communing with God. Is it possible that man going to and walking through the Heaven at a future date? Despite the fact that the entire Christian worship culture revolves around heavenly ascensions, the Bible does not support this Christian teachings. The Bible tends to support the opposite theology, i.e., that the earth will be the eternal abode of man.
The scriptures point to the fact that God has decided to restore the earth to the Paradise that they had originally intended it to be. The Apostle Peter, one of Christ's top lieutenants, stated that the earth shall be the "home of righteousness" (2 Peter 3:10-13). It would appear from this one passage of scripture that God intends to refurbish the earth rather than destroy it after the second coming of Jesus Christ, God the Son. Also, the scriptures also indicate that God (the Son) will come down from Heaven (second coming) and reign on the earth as the head of God's earthly kingdom. He will come and dwell with men, and be their God (see Revelation 21:3). If biblical scriptures indicate that God is coming to man, then when, or where did the theology arise that man will go to dwell with God in Heaven?
Do you believe that you are a demi-god, or that you have an immortal soul already?
Do You Believe That God Will Destroy the Earth After the Final Judgment?
Do You Believe that All Christians Will Go To Heaven After Christ Returns To Earth?
How Did the Heavenly Theology Find Wings?
The notion that man would ascend to Heaven got wings during the end of the First Century AD and took roots in the Second Century AD. It was largely brought to life through the prolific efforts of one of the early church "founders". Origen lived from 185 to 254 AD. He was one who favored the teachings of Socrates and Plato. He embraced their teachings and became an advocate of those teachings. Socrates and Plato were advocates of the immortal soul theology. History states that 'Origen as a theologian, philosopher, and devoted Christian of the Alexandrian school. He famously castrated himself so he could tutor women without suspicion, and he risked his life countless times in encouraging martyrs. He himself was tortured under Decius as an old man and died a short time later. Origen's controversial views on the pre-existence of souls, the ultimate salvation of beings and other topics eventually caused him to be labeled a heretic, yet his teachings were highly influential and today, he is regarded as one of the most important early church fathers (or leaders). Some have labeled Origen as a counterfeit leader. It can be easily summarized that Origen was directly responsible for the introduction of paganism (theology of the immortal soul) into modern day Christianity. Origen easily supported his controversial teachings by adeptly referencing First Century Apostles like Paul, or Saul of Taursas as well as Luke, the Greek Physician, who was a frequent travel companion of Paul. Origen's aim in his writings was to create a greater hope for Christians, who believed that Christ would return to earth before they endure a physical or biological death. As Paul advocated in the First Century, he stressed to his followers that although they endured a physical death, they would immediately be in the presence of the Lord because their souls would immediately ascend to Heaven. These teachings of Origen gave rise to many Christian believers that they would indeed survive physical or biological death, and that to die even though the Lord had not yet returned was indeed a gain or victory over death.
Origen's Teachings Created Dichotomy In Christianity
Despite the obvious dichotomy created by Origen's teachings and views, many took comfort and began to believe those teachings. The Bible advocated that man was a mortal being, who would eventually die and return to the earth from whence he came. The teachings of Origen provided a greater hope to Christian believers who had long been prosecuted and persecuted for maintaining their faith. It seemed to them that a greater and immediate reward awaited them when they died; they simply could not accept the fact that they would merely be placed in the ground for years, decades and even centuries and their bodies would endure decay before they received their rewards for their faithfulness to the Lord. Many of the other early church leaders who had disagreed with Origen began to embrace his views, if for nothing else to maintain their influence and control over their flock. Some even ignored the teachings of the First Century Apostles, and even ignored the very biblical scriptures (in rough manuscript form, not the canonized Bible) which refuted that man had an immortal soul (i.e., consciousness, if you will), which supposedly survived physical or biological death. Origen's teachings came to provide a comfort that many needed, especially during the loss of loved ones. Many took comfort in believing that their loved ones were in Heaven with the Lord, and indeed were in a better place. As the centuries passed, church leaders like Augustine, and Thomas Acquinas embraced Origen's teachings, and became instrumental in making them a part of Catholic doctrine. They simply could not see that Origen's teachings were based upon the pagan beliefs of Socrates and Plato. Despite the well intention of Origen, his controversial teachings eventually brought about a rift in the Church. That rift occurred centuries after his death, but indeed resulted in what is commonly labeled as the Reformation of the 16th Century. Martin Luther, a German priest, had long fought against the pagan theologies, and finally around 1519 nailed his proclamation to the door of a German Catholic Church.
Do you Believe that Origen did reparable damage to the Christian Faith?
A Christian Culture Characterized by Heavenly Reward
Despite scriptures which point to the earth as the eternal abode of man (see Matthew 5:5, Psalm 37:22 and 2 Peter 3:10-13), the modern Church's entire worship culture revolts around Heaven as the eternal abode of man. Christian hymns and songs strongly advocate that Heaven is the final abode of God's people or Christ's Elect. They interpret John 3:16 and Romans 6:23 as one in the same, although both passage of scriptures never mentions Heaven as a reward for Christ's followers. Both passage of scriptures indicate that God's gift for the faithful is "eternal life", or immortality. The scriptures do not indicate that eternal life will be spent in a heavenly abode. Despite the teachings of the Apostle John, who like Peter, was a lieutenant of Christ during his earthly ministry, many Christian believers cling to the Gospel according to Luke because it tells that what traditional Christian edification advocates. Those who read John tend to stay in relatively safe passages or chapter like John 14:1-16. Modern day Christian believes focus upon John 14 as the basis for their worship culture characterized by a Heavenly expectation as a reward for their faithfulness to the Lord. Many point to the fact that Christ stated that he would reserve a room for them in his Father's mansion. They also stated that Christ clearly stated in that passage of scripture that his followers would be with him for eternity. They claim that Christ would reside in Heaven as he does now at the right hand of the Heavenly Father. Many Christian believers and their leaders ignore Revelation 21:3 and 2 Peter 3:10-13. They also ignore Matthew 5:5 and Psalm 37:22 which repel the heavenly entrance theology. Finally, they avoid John 3:13 in which Christ clearly stated that no man has ascended into Heaven, except he (Christ) who came down from Heaven. One can conclude that these passages of scriptures may also indicate God's future intentions. It could imply that God does not want man to reside in Heaven, otherwise there would be no need for Him to refurbish the earth (see 2 Peter 3:10-13). If every Christian believer is to reside in Heaven throughout eternity, why would God have need for the earth? Why would God not destroy the earth, given that it would not be put to use during eternity? Those who insist upon a Heavenly reward simply cannot address these questions because there are no definitive answers.
It is possible that Christian believers who advocate the Heavenly reward expectation cannot answer the questions because of the fear that they may be wrong, or they be disappointed and upset with God if Paradise was indeed re-established on earth. It is commonly said that the Garden of Eden (Paradise) was located between several key rivers that can still be seen on a map today. Would Christians be disappointed indeed if they had to spend eternity in Paradise, where Christ, God the Son, would reign on the Throne of David for eternity? Would they insist on still going to Heaven to dwell with the Heavenly Father?