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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

When We All Get to Heaven??



I generally attend church every Sunday if it is possible.  Many times a gleam of theological wisdom is delivered, but there is one statement or belief that causes me to squirm in the pew.  That statement is the traditional unscriptural idea that the redeemed will all go to heaven and the unredeemed will go to a fiery hell (aka the lake of fire).

A related belief/dogma among some dispensational evangelicals is that all Christians will be raptured to heaven leaving the so-called Jews and the remaining heathens to inherit the earth.  This inheritance should be overridden by the remarkable aspects prophesied by several Old Testament prophets mainly Isaiah (Isaiah 2:2-4 and Isaiah 11:6-9).  In these Millennial prophecies the Jerusalem from which the Lord delivers His edicts is the New Jerusalem not the current one which is prophesied to be destroyed.

Of course, the belief that all the redeemed will go to heaven is never directly written in the New Testament (or Old) in my opinion.  The Gospel of Matthew uses the phrase, “the Kingdom of Heaven”, whereas the Gospel of Luke uses the phrase the “Kingdom of God” and both phrases are designed to indicate the same kingdom.  That doesn’t mean the kingdom is in heaven or in the presence of God’s throne, rather, it means the kingdom is authorized by God from heaven.

God resides within the dimension of Heaven and humans reside within the dimension of space and time.  The elect [written by Paul] (the Saints of God [written by Daniel]; the overcomers) who will be gathered up (i.e. harpazo or rapture [from the Latin translation]) at the end of the present age will be given glorified or spiritual bodies as was the resurrected body of Jesus Christ. 

According to commentators who have the same belief as I, these elect glorified individuals will be able to enter and exit the heavenly dimension of God.  However their purpose is not to remain standing around the throne of God but to be the powers of authority under the direct command of the King named Jesus on the surface of the eventually rehabilitated earth.

Some refer to the statement made by Jesus to the criminal next to Him positioned upon another crucifix:  Luke 23:43 NET And Jesus said to him, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise."  Is the word “paradise” the same as the heavenly abode of God?  This word comes from the Persian word for “garden or park.”  It can also mean a pleasurable abode of the dead. 

Did Jesus actually go to heaven at His death?  No.  According to the following verse (John 20:17) Jesus had not yet ascended to the Father in heaven.

John 20:17 KJV  Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father:

So, where did Jesus go?  The only available scriptural information is found in 1Peter 3:19.  Being in the spirit, He (Jesus) went and preached to the spirits in prison”.  Which prison?  Possibly those mentioned in the story of Lazarus and the rich man.

1 Peter 3:18-19 NET Because Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring you to God, by being put to death in the flesh but by being made alive in the spirit. (19) In it he went and preached to the spirits in prison,

The story is found in Luke 16:19-31.  The KJV describes the two locations as “hell and Abraham’s bosom”.  The word “hell” should actually be translated as Hades, i.e. the Greek concept for the abode of the dead – probably the unrighteous dead in this particular instance.  This is the only scriptural mention of Abraham’s bosom and it is not a place actually officiated by a spiritual Abraham and is probably the place termed as “paradise” in Luke 23:43 (i.e. the abode of the righteous dead).

Jesus did not actually go to (heaven) until Acts 1:9.  The “cloud” was most likely not water vapor but rather a host of angelic beings since a cloud cannot receive anyone.

Acts 1:9 KJV  And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

Where are the People Located?
At the return of Jesus, everyone living will continue to be located on planet earth.  The elect/saints/overcomers may go to the heavenly dimension for a short time (according to some commentators) but the remainder of the living human race will remain on the planet.  The earth will not be some chaotic scene of mass destruction as some uninformed people speculate. 

The earth will be governed by the glorified elect without the squander, stealth, racketeering, lies, etc. that is now occurring.  Scientific advances will be used for the betterment and benefit of the population and not controlled or hidden by some corrupt government.  It is possible that many diseases and ailments will be cured and wealth will be applied for the welfare of the citizens of the earth.  Non-glorified people will continue to die but scripture declares their lifespan will continually be expanded through possibly medical breakthroughs.

After the 1000 year millennial Kingdom of God, the second resurrection will occur.  The redeemed and the unknowing of the laws of God within this group will be given light correction for their lawless ways.  Others, more lawless and aware of the law of God, will receive various degrees of corrective punishment which may involve the metaphoric “lake of fire”.

Luke 12:47-48 NET That servant who knew his master's will but did not get ready or do what his master asked will receive a severe beating. (48) But the one who did not know his master's will and did things worthy of punishment will required, and from the one who has been entrusted with much, even more will be asked.

Although listed as a parable, Luke 12:43-44 states that when Jesus returns, His servant who is doing the will of God will be placed in charge of the Lord’s possessions.  It is doubtful these possessions are in heaven where no possession is necessary.

Luke 12:43-44 NET Blessed is that slave whom his master finds at work when he returns. (44) I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions.

The First Resurrection
As has been reported in several past posts, only a certain group called overcomers (i.e. the elect, the called, or the Saints of the Most High God) will be resurrected in the initial “gathering up” (harpazo or rapture in the Latin text).  As can be seen in the verse below, nominal Christians or occasional law breakers regardless of their belief system will have to wait for the second resurrection which occurs at the end of the Millennium (or 1000 years of the Kingdom of God).  The non-religious, atheists, and willful law breakers will most likely be sent to the lake of fire.

Matthew 7:21 NET "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter into the kingdom of heaven -- only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

There are several verses in the New Testament that tend to confuse preachers and Bible teachers who believe in an all-Christian pre-trib rapture.  In Romans 8:17-17 Paul uses the phrase, “God’s children”, other versions translate as “children of God”.  Paul gives one clue to identify the children of God which is: “we suffer with Him”.

Romans 8:16-17 NET The Spirit himself bears witness to our spirit that we are God's children. (17) And if children, then heirs (namely, heirs of God and also fellow heirs with Christ) -- if indeed we suffer with him so we may also be glorified with him.

Later in verse 23 Paul states the elect have the first fruits of the Spirit.  They are a full time citizen of the Kingdom of God and not a part time citizen.

Romans 8:23 NET Not only this, but we ourselves also, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly await our adoption, the redemption of our bodies.

These verses in Romans 8 are describing the characteristics of the elect (saints of God).  To qualify, it is not enough to merely believe in the name of Jesus and receive the grace of God that you are redeemed although this will entitle you to a light punishment at the second resurrection.  To be a child of God, one must continually be a servant of God and a citizen of the Kingdom of God.  No amount of planned or pre-planned good works will qualify you.  As James pointed out, if one is a child of God then good works occur innately because that is a natural part of one’s Godly character.

James 2:17 NET So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.

The Great Multitude
The great multitude standing before the throne of God as written in Revelation 7:9.  This multitude represents (symbolically or metaphorically) all the elect of all the people throughout history who are called to be the elect or the sons of God.

This large group is celebrating the feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, for they are waving palm branches as per the instructions in Leviticus 23:39-40
Revelation 7:9 NET After these things I looked, and here was an enormous crowd that no one could count, made up of persons from every nation, tribe, people, and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb dressed in long white robes, and with palm branches in their hands.

All people are commanded to keep the feast, and all rejoice, whether they are of Israel (i.e. the northern ten tribes) or of another nation or ethnic group.

The feast of Tabernacles is a command of God and everyone is required to celebrate it.  This is not the case in today’s world but it most likely will be celebrated by all citizens during the days of the Kingdom of God

Deuteronomy 16:13-15 NET (13) You must celebrate the Festival of Temporary Shelters (booths or tabernacles) for seven days, at the time of the grain and grape harvest. (14) You are to rejoice in your festival, you, your son, your daughter, your male and female slaves, the Levites, the resident foreigners, the orphans, and the widows who are in your villages. (15) You are to celebrate the festival seven days before the LORD your God in the place he chooses, for He will bless you in all your productivity and in whatever you do; so you will indeed rejoice!

During the Kingdom of God era when the feast of tabernacles is voluntarily and joyfully celebrated.  The Lord God will bless all agriculture, industry, and productivity.  It is highly likely there will be no slaves.  There may be orphans at the beginning of the age but they will soon be cared for.

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