Are Christians going to Heaven?
Are Christians going to Heaven?
Are Christians destined for heaven on Christ Second Return? This is one of the enigma of the Christian experience, but how so? The bible does speaks of heaven, but does it say that's where humans go when they die? Or will go when Christ return? Where does it say that heaven is the reward of the faithful? Paul the noted New Testament preacher spoke of the saints being forever with the Lord, but did he say where? Was Paul indicating saints will be with the Lord at a particular place? Being with the Lord is clearly his vision, yes but does this mean in heaven? How many times have you heard people say they're going to heaven when they die? They upholds the view, having been indoctrinated to believe this concept. Many die with the firm belief that when they awake on the resurrection morning, they will awake in heaven. Or that after death their souls rest in heaven awaiting the final rapture. But from where does this concept originate? Certainly, with so much to gain or to loose, we need to know the answer, and convincingly? Or do we? With so much hanging on to our faith, is it not right that we have an unambiguous answer?
Examine some of the following concepts that prevails among church groups:
* Saints becomes angels and goes to heaven when they die.
* All who obeys the Ten Commandments will go to heaven.
* All who believes in God will go to heaven
* Anyone who does no murder will go to heaven
* All who does more good than bad in his life will go to heaven.
* All church goers will go to heaven.
* All in the Christian family (the save sanctify the unsaved) will go to heaven
* Heaven is the reward of the faithful
Well, what's wrong with these teachings? After all, they are sound concepts, aren't they? Does the bible not say we should live a righteous life and we will be rewarded? Where is the Christian reward, in heaven? Of course the Ten Commandments are godly traits are they not. What's wrong with the teachings of, do no murder? Don't covet? Keep the Sabbath day holy? Do not commit adultery? Don't carve or make any graven image, don't bow to them & nor serve them, but worship God only? Honour parents? Are these not neighbourly, humanly and righteous activities? However not only are the going to heaven concepts wrong, they are un-scriptural! Not in the Old Testament, neither did Jesus say, Paul or any New Testament authors wrote that saints are going to heaven.
I will take a challenging position and openly, probably unusual, but defiantly state that no scripture support such concepts. This of course is out of the norm and different to what is being taught in major well respected Christian faith groups. Did Christ and His apostles taught this doctrine? Did any early Christians or church fathers upheld or promote the concept? If not where did it originate and how and when did it become a Christian doctrine?
However, contrary to the popular concept, I can unconditionally assert and positively affirm that neither the Old or New Testament Scriptures support such a concept. Though early church fathers believed that Jesus Christ inaugurated the Kingdom of God on earth, they never believed that they were going to heaven. Therefore I can assuredly reveal that no human being has ever or will ever go to Heaven! But how do I prove this point, when some bible scholars promote the concept from the biblical text?
But Scripturally, one of the most commented on books of the Bible, is the book of Revelation. Here we see sometimes graphical images, sometimes metaphorical symbols, hyperbole languages to describe the activities of nations, kings and kingdoms prior to Christ Second Coming. The images are sometimes scary, and very frightening even to John the author who received the Revelation from Christ. Because the book detailed the end of the world, it should be taken more seriously, most of it is not literal, it is symbolic.
Revelation is regarded as the book of the end, that reveal how all things will end, the complete opposite to the book of Genesis that tells how it all began. Detailed in revelation is the vision of a Holy City coming down from heaven. The book clearly stated that God will set up a kingdom on earth the New Jerusalem, not like the old where conflicts and wars have been fought for the last thousands of years. That city has been invaded some 44 times in its history, major wars fought over its ownership, and today it is divided among many different sects.
The Muslims invaded, sealed and closed the eastern gate to block the prophesied coming of the Jewish Messiah. They built a Mosque on the temple mount replacing the Jewish temple and even today occupy half of the city. When Christ returns it will become a city of the saints. Not in its present form, Christ, advised His disciples He would go to prepare a place for them, and that when He returns He will receive them unto Himself. The holy city that John saw descending from heaven, is that new Jerusalem, and that is where the saints of God will reign with Christ for a thousand years.
The concept of saints going to heaven was never one promoted by the apostles and the early church. But after centuries of conflicts and rejection, little by little foreign ideas crept into the church. Today it becomes increasingly difficult for millions of Christians not to think of heaven as their final destination. Many preachers continue to promote it from the pulpit and many books have been written about it. So how can we convince the Christian community that they are not going to heaven?
The Egyptians believed that the departed souls would undertake a literal journey to reach heaven. The Hittites believed that heaven was the abode of the gods. In Buddhism, there are several heavens, and those who accumulate good karma may be reborn in one of them. Attaining heaven is not the final pursuit in Hinduism as heaven itself is empirical and related to physical body. In Islam there are references to an afterlife in Eden for those who do good deeds. However children automatically go to heaven when they die regardless of the religion of their parents. In Sikhism heaven and hell are not places for living hereafter but are part of the spiritual topography and do not exist. In Judaism, as is in Christianity, heaven is the dwelling place of Yahweh, God. However, the view of going to heaven is a modern concept, and probably found its way into Christianity via the Romans who later converted to Christianity. The Persian Zoroastrian's and Mithraism, Median inspired the Roman system of worship Mithraism, worshipped the god Mithra, though the Greeks have some aspects of this worship system. A significant number of these ancient religion has some form of this going to heaven concept, but seem to have developed through pagan systems into Christian consciousness. Religious systems that inspired the Romans, has found its way into Christian teachings. This because the Romans believe in keeping some old concepts and gave them a good Christian mix. The Roman Catholic church began to teach that Christ through His death and resurrection has opened heaven to us. They teach that Christians who dies still imperfectly purified, must pass through a state of purification, known as 'purgatory' before they enter into heaven. but many Protestant churches not just adhere to the concepts, but actively teach of Christian going to heaven, not just the Catholics.
The concepts of humans going to heaven is not a biblical teaching. The Old Testament Scriptures, has many mentions of heaven, but it is always as a place where God dwells, not a hope for humans. But the Old Testament is almost silent about the concept of heaven, let alone going there. However, there are a few text that indicate a developing or newly formed belief in heaven. It is possible that King David (Psa 16:9-11), "... You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand2, could be anticipating a location of blessing in God’s presence in the after life. Similarly, "You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory" (Psa 73:24),. Though, it would seem, that many of the anticipation of saints was on the probability of an existence on earth in the kingdom of Christ after their resurrection. For the people of God throughout the ages of the Christian experience, could be sharing a longing with the much loved and often quoted psalms, "Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you" (Psa. 73: 25). Surely, this is nothing more than an expression of the heart that has a longing, a great desire to be with God. So this is much similar to Israels famous King David's expression, where the psalmist declared his desire for God,, "As the deer pants for streams of waters my soul pants for you, my God... My soul thirsts for God, for the living God...When can I go and meet with God? (Psa. 42: 1-2).This is not an expression of desire to be in heaven, but a desire to be in the presence of God.
Christ First Coming
Jesus told the thief on the cross,“Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise" (Luke 23: 43). But did Jesus infer that paradise is in heaven or on earth? The New Testament authors have a lot to say about New heaven and earth. They signify that the death, and resurrection of Christ has brought Gods salvation to the whole of humanity. That Jesus will come again to earth and gather those who worship Him as Lord, but where will they go? Is this concept consistent with New Testament teaching concerning “final things,” the phrase “new heavens and new earth?” Surely this does not imply Christians will go into a new heaven. But the teachings of Christ imply that Christians will inhabit a new earth. However, some interprets the passage as a possible representation of the protected environment , up above the earth, Christians will be in, following the Judgement Day's turrmoil; an environment which is often referred to as “heaven” (Mt. 6:19-20). This apostle John said, “Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea...I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Rev. 21: 1-2). Christ in the sermon on the mount, taught, "THE MEEK SHALL INHERIT THE EARTH!" (Matt 5)
However, If we understand heaven as in the air, there are several levels of heaven i.e. the birds fly in heaven, and above them the interplanetary sphere and so on. But where God now dwells, no man will, no believer will. Yes we Christian will be lifted up - but we will meet Christ halfway up - as He already will be on His way down to earth to reward the faithful. Never at any point do the Gospels or Paul say Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven. I've often heard people say, 'I'm going to heaven soon, and I won't need this painful corrupt body there, thank goodness. That's a very damaging distortion, all the more so for being unintentional.
This teaching about us going to heaven is a misconception taught by misguided bible scholars over time and now so imbedded it cannot be erased. These bible scholars and teachers have not done their homework and has mislead many. Often I'm asked to explain why I reject that typical sentiment found even among some of the world most notably preachers and theologians. I told them there are several important respects in which this wildly held view is unsupported in any of the gospels or Paul's writings. First, the timing, some churches teach that when we die, we enter an intermediate state, clearly wrong and not scriptural - you're ether alive or dead!
The Apostle Paul is very clear that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead already, but that nobody else who is dead has yet to be raised. Secondly, our physical state. The New Testament says that when Christ does return, the dead will be resurrected - experience a whole new life. Some even taught that we have a separate soul is different and independent of the body, the body die but the soul lives, again a wrong concept. The teaching goes way back into pagan cultures but found its way into modern teachings by a fallen church, those misguided church fathers who believes it was OK to mix religious practices with pagan customs. God rejected those teachings in Old Testament and quite frankly, the principle is, if one take a bottle labelled arson and relabelled it as honey the content is still deadly!
Christ Second Coming
In Genesis at the point where God created Adam from the dust of the earth, the text clearly declared that God breathe the breath of live into him and the man became a living soul! It was not part of Adam that started to live, all of him became a fully functional human being! In Ezekiel 18 we're told " the soul that sin it shall die" The Hebrew from which "soul" is interpreted refers to "life" or "person" so the reference is the whole person shall lose his life because of unrepentant sins. Also, the location. At no point do the resurrection narratives of the four Gospels say, 'Jesus has been raised, therefore we are all going to heaven. It says that Christ is coming back here on earth, His Second Coming, to bring it all together, appearing in the heavens where all eyes shall behold Him. Settled on Holy Mount Zion - The New Jerusalem, restore the world to what it was before Adam and Eve cause sin to enter, and in an act of new creation or regeneration of the world - behold all things will become new.
In the book of John, Jesus himself is quoted as saying, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven." (John 3:13). Ever heard the term "a text without a context is a pretext?" Well, many keen bible watchers has at length examined teachings of the "secret rapture" and Paul statement "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord" (Thess. 4: 17), to mean we're going away in a secret rapture to heaven.
First, when Paul refers to caught up to meet Christ he's referring not to a secret rapture, because it will be a open visible event! It will be accompanied by loud voices and trumpets blast, certainly not secret. The meeting Christ in the air, will be visible to all and at the point when Christ is coming down! Yes we will be caught up to meet Jesus in the air, but we will return to live with Him on the earth! Secondly, "and so shall we ever be with the Lord" do not mean living in Heaven! It means Christians will be in the Lord's presence for a thousand years on earth! In the sermon on the mount Christ specifically taught His followers, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matt. 5: 5).
The misguided teachers forget the text that say we will reign with Him in the new Jerusalem. The 'New Jerusalem' not the same Jerusalem which is being fought over by the Jews and Arabs. The Old will be taken over, and when all things are renewed Jerusalem become the city of God and where Christ will reign! Many modern culture seems very interested in life after death, but the New Testament is much more interested in what can term the life after death in the ultimate resurrection into the new heavens and the new Earth. Jesus' resurrection marks the beginning of a restoration, "...he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead" (Col. 1: 18), that he will complete upon his return. Part of this will be the resurrection of all the dead, who will 'awake,' be embodied and participate with Christ in the renewal of Jerusalem and the world.
The Muslim invaders of Jerusalem believed the prophecy that Christ was returning there when they occupied the city so they built a great wall in the 1050's AD with the aim of blocking the coming Messiah from entering the city. The wall is still there to see today. So where will the new Jerusalem be? "And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea...And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband...And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God... And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God" (Rev. 21: 1-3, 10). In the chapter John saw this great city coming down from heaven - a picture of loveliness, so beautiful John was struck with awe. Another statement from the bible, "behold all things will become new", this is not about Heaven but earth. Heaven is already a picture of Holiness and beauty - a place where chaos cannot enter.
Remember, that Satan tried to bring chaos in heaven and the arch angel Gabriel fought against him and threw him out - Christ gives a picture of Satan defeat when He declared, "And he said unto them, I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven" (Luke 10:18). In Revelation Satan's final defeat will take place where he now dwells on earth causing misery to untold millions of humans around the world. Christ will usher in a new era of peace on earth - the "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2: 14), will not just be a Christmas time phrase but peace all year round and forever. A place where "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent's meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the LORD" (Isa. 65: 25).
Believers who have died
One of the key text used by bible interpreters to promote the going to heaven concept, is Paul's letter to the Thessalonians:
"Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words" (1Thess. 4: 13-18).
Is Paul telling the Thessalonian folks that they will go to heaven? What is evident from the text is that some of the Thessalonians may have misunderstood Paul and thought all believers would live until Christ second coming. Firstly the saints view Paul's teachings on Christ return as an imminent event. Paul is giving them reassurance of the resurrection, despite the seemingly finality and horror of death. Inscriptions on tombs and references in literature show that first century pagans viewed death with horror and the end of everything. Paul was painting the Christian attitude in strong contrast to pagans. Christ bore the horror of death so that those who believe in Him would not have to. Christians are merely asleep, a metaphor for death, they will arise on the morning of the resurrection. Christians who are alive will not 'precede', or come before the dead in Christ, they will rise to meet Christ first. This is before the ascension of all believers. And all will be caught up to meet Him in the air. Now as explained earlier there are different levels of heaven, and so caught up to meet Him in the air or caught up together with them in the clouds, so is an aspect of heaven. However this is not where God dwells, and the teaching is that we will be in the presence of God in heaven.And so we will be with the Lord' for ever, is not an endorsement of being in Heaven. The emphasis here is not on where we will be, but who we will be with, and the answer is 'with the Lord'. Remember the bible interprets itself, and comparable text reveals, the New Jerusalem, which John saw coming down from heaven is where the saints will dwell and reign with Christ for a thousand years. 'The meek will inherit the earth'.
On that day, Satan's down fall will be complete and final, he will be bound and cast into the bottomless pt for a thousand years. And "the kingdoms of this world will become the kingdom of God and His Christ" who will reign with the faithful for a thousand years - in the New Jerusalem! "And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it...And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof...And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it...And the gates of it shall not be shut at all by day: for there shall be no night there...And they shall bring the glory and honour of the nations into it" (Rev. 21: 22 - 26).
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