GOING TO HEAVEN
Copyright © 2008 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Heaven is not spoken of as the goal of salvation or the reward for righteous living in either the Old Testament or the New Testament. The concept of going to Heaven when we die is one of the most deeply ingrained of the traditions of Christianity. As far as we know, the phrase “going to Heaven” does not appear even one time in the New Testament. The Apostles of Christ preached the return of Christ in His Kingdom, not our going to Heaven.
We may have assumed that the early Apostles preached or implied that the righteous are going to make Heaven their eternal home, but they did not do so. Such is our tradition and it needs to be examined, because the wrong goal leads to the wrong approach to the process of redemption.
GOING TO HEAVEN
The concept of going to Heaven when we die is one of the most deeply ingrained of the traditions of Christianity. However, in view of the fact that the Scriptures have little to say about going to Heaven, perhaps we ought to review our belief about what happens to us when we die.
The Old Testament writings do not point toward Heaven as the eternal abode of the righteous or the goal of redemption. Several times in the Old Testament the righteous who die are spoken of as being “gathered to their people.” But the Old Testament destiny of the dead is Sheol, and Sheol is not pictured as the reward for righteous living.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave [Sheol] who shall give thee thanks? (Psalms 6:5)
I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave [Sheol], whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. (Psalms 88:4,5)
However, the resurrection from the dead is spoken of in the Old Testament Scripture, but not in connection with going to Heaven.
Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. (Ezekiel 37:12)
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. (Daniel 12:2)
It is true also of the New Testament that Heaven is not spoken of as the goal of salvation or the reward for righteous living. This tradition is so deeply ingrained, as we have said, that the reader may find our statement difficult to believe.
In the nations that have been influenced by Christian doctrine, even the unsaved and many of the Jewish people think of Heaven as the reward for righteous conduct. But the New Testament definitely does not set forth eternal residence in Heaven as the goal of salvation.
The phrase “going to Heaven” does not appear even one time in the New Testament. The Apostles of Christ preached the return of Christ in His Kingdom, not our going to Heaven. We may have assumed that they preached or inferred that Heaven is the eternal home of the righteous, but they did not do so. Such is our tradition and it needs to be reexamined.
Do the Scriptures teach that there is a place called Heaven? They do indeed! Heaven is spoken of in both the Old Testament and the New Testament as the abode of God and the holy angels. There is a place called Heaven, and the Lord Jesus came from Heaven and went back to Heaven. He will return from Heaven when He is ready to make the kingdoms of the world the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.
Where do Christians go when they die? The true saints go to be with the Lord Jesus, for they belong to Him.
We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. (II Corinthians 5:8)
As for the destiny of those who are not true saints, such as the lukewarm believers, or the wicked, there are enough warnings in the Scriptures to encourage us to avoid their fate by seeking the Lord with all our strength.
What will it be like to pass into the spirit realm? We do not know. The Scriptures have little to say concerning what happens to us when we die.
The concept of the “many mansions in Heaven” is based on a mistranslation of the Greek term for abode. In fact, Jesus’ comments in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John are not referring to Heaven. Christ is telling us here that He is returning to the Father (not stressing Heaven), and that the Father and He will return to the faithful saint and take up Their eternal abode (the same term translated “mansions” in John 14:2) in him (John 14:23).
The entire Scriptures, Old Testament and New Testament, never once portray the spiritual Heaven as being a paradise of lawns, trees, fountains, lakes, children, birds, flowers, where we can stroll peacefully with our loved ones.
This author has no doubt that God’s Heaven indeed includes a glorified park, a realm of righteousness, beauty, peace, joy, and love beyond our ability to describe. Nevertheless the Scriptures do not present the spiritual Paradise as the eternal home of the saints.
At some point in the history of the Christian Church the Gospel of the Kingdom of God changed to the gospel of going to Heaven. The goal of redemption became that of going to Heaven when we die. This concept certainly was not emphasized by the Apostles, who preached continually the return of Christ in His Kingdom (that which John the Baptist and Jesus also preached).
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, (II Thessalonians 1:7)
John the Baptist:
And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 3:2)
The Lord Jesus:
From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (Matthew 4:17)
One of the main sources of our concept of Heaven as a spiritual paradise is the dreams and visions of the saints, including the testimonies of the godly as they lay dying. It is our opinion that all or most of these are true.
There are many books available today that portray the spiritual paradise. One of the best of these is Visions Beyond the Veil (H. A. Baker, Springdale, PA: Whitaker House, 1973). From our point of view, Visions Beyond the Veil describes a true vision from the Lord. It satisfies and corresponds to our deepest feelings concerning what takes place when the righteous die.
Our point is not that there is no spiritual paradise or that the righteous do not go there when they die. It is clear, however, that the Scriptures do not speak of Heaven as being our eternal home. Heaven exists. Indeed it does. Our personal belief is that Paradise will be a place of rest for the saint while the army of the Lord is being prepared for the invasion of the earth in the Battle of Armageddon. But eternal residence in Paradise is not the goal of the Christian salvation.
The true message of Jesus is that all the righteousness, peace, joy, and wonder of Heaven are coming to the earth. First, as an overcoming power that crushes resistance during the thousand-year Kingdom Age, and then as the permanent possession of mankind throughout the eternity of the new heaven and earth reign of Christ.
Notice the teaching of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews. The godly always are seeking the city that “hath foundations,” a city that is coming to the earth.
The godly have died in faith. Assuredly, they are in Heaven with God. But have they attained the goal, the “rest” of God?
Speaking of the righteous who are with God in Heaven, the heroes of faith:
And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: (Hebrews 11:39)
If Heaven is the “rest” promised to the Lord’s people, the “land of milk and honey,” why, then, does the infallible Scripture declare that Enoch and Abraham have “not received the promise”?
Also, we are not going to live in the city that has foundations. The city that has foundations is coming to us.
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come. (Hebrews 13:14)
We are seeking a city that is coming to the earth.
But if Heaven is not the goal of salvation, then what is?
The goal of the Christian redemption is the “rest” of God. Canaan, the land of promise, the goal of our wanderings, is set forth in the Scriptures as the “rest” that remains to the people of God.
For if Jesus [Joshua] had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. (Hebrews 4:8,9)
It is obvious that the Spirit of God, in the Book of Hebrews, is associating the “rest” of God with the land of promise of the Jews.
The Israelites wandered for forty years in the wilderness. The events of the Exodus, the wandering, and the entrance into Canaan were real experiences of real people. However, they happened to the Israelites in order that we who are entering the true and eternal Kingdom of God might have examples placed before us of what to do and what not to do.
Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. (I Corinthians 10:11)
The various episodes associated with the history of the Hebrews, particularly their exodus from Egypt and entrance into Canaan, serve us Christians as types—the foreshadowing of spiritual realities.
What does Canaan, the land of promise, the land of “milk and honey,” the “rest” of God, portray? Of what is Canaan a type? Specifically what does Canaan represent?
What is the goal, the end result, the “Heaven” of the Christian salvation?
We know that Canaan is not a type of Heaven because we do not (as far as we know) have to fight our way from city to city after we get to Heaven.
Our destiny is the Sabbath rest of God. When we enter God’s rest we shall seek the Lord’s pleasure, speak the Lord’s words, and walk in the Lord’s ways for eternity (compare Isaiah 58:13,14).
Our destiny includes change into the moral image of the Lord Jesus, and union with God through Christ.
We are being created the eternal Temple of God, a place where God can find rest. We shall have attained the goal of our existence when all sin and self-seeking have been removed from our personality and God and Jesus have settled down to rest in us. God and we enter rest at the same time.
Why have we become confused concerning our destiny in Christ?
One reason for our blindness is the teaching of the so-called “rapture” of the “Gentile Christians.” One of the teachings that attends the doctrine of the “rapture” is that a “Gentile Church” will be carried off to Heaven to do we know not what, while the saints who were physically born Jews will inherit the earth.
As long as this concept is held the Christian people never will understand the goal of their redemption. They will remain ignorant of the fact that the Hebrew Prophets speak of the Kingdom of God, not of going to Heaven when we die. Truly, the effects of teaching the “rapture” need to be examined closely by its proponents.
Is there a difference between Jewish saints and Gentile saints? Once an individual becomes a Christian the distinction between Jew and Gentile disappears. There only is the new creation, and the new creation is neither Jewish nor Gentile.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ. (Galatians 3:28)
The Kingdom of God always is for God’s Israel, and God’s Israel includes all who are in Christ. We Gentiles have been grafted on the one true Vine, Christ. There is no such thing as a “Gentile Church.” It cannot be found in the Scriptures. There is but one fold, one Shepherd.
The Kingdom of God began among the physical Jews and will end among the physical Jews. All the Apostles of the Lamb were Jews. The Body of Christ originally consisted of physical Jews, and God will turn again to physical Israel in the last days. Those to whom God turns will become part of Christ, the Olive Tree, the one true Vine of which the believing Gentiles are an eternal part.
And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; (Romans 11:17)
If we are not part of the one Israel of God we have no place in the Kingdom of God.
It is not true that a Gentile church will be in Heaven while Jewish saints inherit the earth. This is contrary to the teachings of the Apostle Paul, who taught us that we Gentiles are part of the one family of God (Ephesians 2:11-22).
To whom, then, did the Prophets of Israel speak? Precisely who are the recipients of the utterances of Isaiah, of Ezekiel, of Micah?
To whom are the Scriptures written?
The holy Scriptures are written to only one set of people—the elect. The elect are the one true Seed of Abraham. Christ, and those who are an integral part of Him, regardless of their physical race, compose the elect of God, the one Seed of Abraham.
The elect of God were known by Him before the creation of the world. They have been predestined to be changed into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ. They are the brothers of Christ, having been born of the same Father.
The entire earth, the heavens, time, mass, energy, human history, and everything else are bringing forth the elect, the brothers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament speak to God’s elect.
The Hebrew Prophets were not addressing their own race except for specific events of their own history. The visions of the Prophets that speak of Christ, of the Kingdom of God, were written for the Lord Jesus, and then for God’s elect, whether Jewish or Gentile by physical birth.
The Messianic Kingdom does not consist of physical Jews. Both the Jew and the Gentile must be born again of the Spirit of God in order to see or to enter the Kingdom of God.
Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. (Galatians 3:19)
Is it not clear that the Seed of Abraham, the one Seed from God, is Christ and those who are of Christ? The physical Jew must receive Christ in order to be an heir of the Kingdom of God. It is the Seed of Abraham who is the Heir of the Kingdom of God.
The Hebrew Prophets were addressing Christians, not the Jews of their own day:
Unto whom [the Prophets of Israel] it was revealed, that not unto themselves [the Old Testament Israelites], but unto us [the Jewish Peter and the Gentile converts whom he was addressing] they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (I Peter 1:12).
The prophecies of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, Joel and so forth are addressed to Christians, not to the physical Jews, except for the passages that clearly deal with the physical land and people of Israel. If this is the case we can look for our land of promise, our rest, our “heaven,” in the writings of the Prophets.
The Book of Isaiah, for example, contains many visions, many utterances that describe the goal of the Christian redemption. Isaiah was not speaking to his contemporaries but to the elect of our day. His own people were blind to his message (Isaiah 6:9,10).
The coming of the Kingdom of God to the earth is the subject of the Hebrew Prophets. It is that Kingdom into which we Christians, whether Jews or Gentiles by natural birth, have been born spiritually.
The end result of salvation is not an aimless wandering in a spiritual paradise not described in the Scriptures, a paradise of which we gain glimpses only through the testimonies of dying saints. Rather, our Heaven, our rest, the goal of our pilgrimage, is set forth boldly by the Hebrew Prophets.
If you desire to know where the Holy Spirit is leading you, read Isaiah; read Ezekiel; read Zechariah.
God has not concealed our destiny from us. He has portrayed our goal in the Scriptures. The rest, the inheritance into which we have to fight our way, is set forth in the sixtieth chapter of the Book of Isaiah, and again in the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of the Book of Revelation.
The Christian “land of promise” is the Kingdom of God on the earth, just as the Hebrew land of promise was the Kingdom of Israel in the area now known as the Middle East.
The Kingdom of God is God in Christ in the saints ruling and blessing the nations of the earth.
We believe there is a gloriously beautiful and wonderful spiritual Paradise. It is inhabited by God, Christ, the holy angels, and the spirits of the righteous dead. It is this area, the temporary resting place of the saints, that we refer to as Heaven.
The spiritual Paradise, Heaven, is not adjacent to the earth. One could not get into a space ship and then journey through space until he reached the spiritual Paradise. Some assume and teach this but it is not a true understanding.
The term paradise is used but three times in the New Testament and not at all in the Old Testament. It does not appear that the Prophets or the Apostles proclaimed that going to the place termed “Paradise” is the goal of the Christian salvation.
The word heaven is employed profusely throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament. The problem is, neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament distinguishes between heaven as the space above the earth, and Heaven as the spiritual paradise, the abode of Christ and His angels. The one word, heaven, is applied with equal force to the space above the earth and to the spiritual abode of holy and righteous spirits.
It is true also that there are several spiritual heavens. The Lord’s prayer actually reads, “Our Father who are in the heavens.” Paul was caught up to the third heaven. It appears that God, the saints, and the holy angels dwell in the highest heaven.
It is our point of view, therefore, that the spiritual Heaven of God and Jesus is not in a dimension that includes the earth. The earth is in the physical dimension; the spiritual Paradise, or Heaven, is in the spiritual dimension.
The location of the spiritual Heaven is not as significant as it would be if the spiritual Heaven were in the same dimension as the earth. It is true, rather, that Heaven is all around us.
But the Scriptures consistently refer to the spiritual Heaven as being above us. The Lord Jesus “lifted up His eyes to heaven.” The disciples saw Jesus ascend into Heaven (or into the heaven, perhaps referring to the area of the clouds—Acts 1:11).
We would suggest that the entire spirit realm, or dimension, coincides and coexists with the earth, with the lower atmosphere, and with outer space.
The spiritual prisons are located within the earth.
For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:40)
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (Philippians 2:10)
And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spake as a dragon. (Revelation 13:11)
The spirit realm of Satan and his angels is located in the air, the lower atmosphere.
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: (Ephesians 2:2)
The spiritual Paradise, the abode of God, is in the heavens above the atmosphere of the earth and may extend into outer space. Perhaps the clouds are the point of division.
The spiritual Paradise was on the earth in the beginning. Adam and Eve did not have to pray to God in Heaven. God was accustomed to walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
As soon as Adam and Eve disobeyed God, Paradise (Heaven) disappeared from the surface of the earth. God walked no more in visible Presence with men.
Now it appears that Heaven is in the sky, so to speak, awaiting the day when it once again will be visible to people.
And the heaven [the sky] departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. (Revelation 6:14)
The Book of Revelation speaks of a new heaven and a new earth. It appears that the term “heaven,” as used in Revelation 21:1, is referring to the firmament, that is, to the physical heaven, the sky. The last two chapters of the Book of Revelation describe the descent of the perfected spiritual Heaven from the new physical heaven (sky) to the new physical earth (Hebrews 12:23).
God’s Kingdom indeed shall come. His will indeed shall be done in earth as it now is being performed in Heaven. This precisely is what the Hebrew Prophets have announced will come to pass in the earth. When God’s will is being done in the earth as it now is in Heaven, the nations of saved peoples of the earth will behold the fullness of God’s glory in the Church descending from the new sky.
Heaven always and eternally is God’s throne.
Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? (Isaiah 66:1)
But in the twenty-first and twenty-second chapters of the Book of Revelation we find that the new Jerusalem descends to the surface of the new earth, and that “the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it” (Revelation 22:3).
When God’s will is being done in the earth and the Throne of God is located in the earth, then the earth has become Heaven; not the physical heaven, the firmament (sky), or the spiritual area where Paradise is now, but the place where God dwells and rules.
In the present hour the spiritual Heaven appears to be located in the physical heaven (sky), although in another dimension. But in the future, when the Kingdom of God has been perfected, the spiritual Heaven no longer will be located in the physical heaven. The spiritual Heaven will be located on the physical earth—and perhaps in the same dimension, although we cannot be certain of this.
At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. (Jeremiah 3:17)
Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, that is, “Heaven.”
Will the new heaven (sky) and new earth be physical? Yes, they will.
When God created the material dimension He created the form of it for eternity. This is illustrated by the fact that the body (the flesh and bones) of the Lord Jesus was raised from the cave of Joseph of Arimathea. The Lord Jesus still possesses His flesh-and-bones body, although now glorified.
If the material creation were not eternal there would be no purpose in the resurrection from the dead. If our bodies are not an eternal creation, what would be the purpose of the resurrection from the dead?
Why would God raise our bodies from the dead if they are not to be redeemed? Indeed, as some are teaching, we would have only the body from Heaven. Therefore there would be no resurrection from the dead of our mortal bodies. It is being maintained, contrary to the Scriptures, that our physical body never will be made alive, never redeemed.
If the Scripture teaches (and it does) that our mortal bodies will be redeemed, then the mortal body is destined to become eternal. Having once been raised from the dead it can die no more. Eating from the Tree of Life which is in the midst of the Paradise of God will finally bring eternal life to our death-doomed body.
Isn’t it true that flesh and blood cannot enter the Kingdom of God? Yes, that is a fact. But flesh and bones that are filled with eternal, incorruptible resurrection life can and shall enter the Kingdom of God. The new Jerusalem is filled with glorified flesh and bones, just as the Lord Jesus today dwells in a temple of glorified flesh and bones. It may be true that the nail prints yet are in His hands although now gleaming with the beauty of priceless rubies.
Isn’t it true that we are not sowing the body that we will have in the future? Yes, such is the case. The body we possess at this time will be raised from the dead when the Lord returns, and then will be clothed with our new body from Heaven, a body fashioned from eternal, incorruptible resurrection life—the Life of God.
Will we have a new body? Yes! Will our former body still be present? Yes! Would God raise our mortal body from the dead and then destroy it? No, He will not do that. God has promised to redeem our mortal body (Romans 8:11).
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: (Job 19:26)
The Ark of the Covenant was constructed from acacia wood covered on the outside and the inside with gold. This is a type of the Glory of God covering the “wooden” physical body.
The Apostle Paul groaned for the “adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” (Romans 8:23)
We too ought to be groaning, not that we should be unclothed, that is, that we should lose our fleshly body, but rather that our fleshly frame should be clothed with eternal life.
The burden of the Spirit is not that we be removed to Heaven, to the spiritual paradise, but that the spiritual paradise be restored to the earth. The prayer is not that the Father should bring us to His eternal home in the heavens but that His Kingdom, the performing of His will, should be brought down to the earth.
The saints, then revealed as sons of God by their resurrection from the dead, will deliver the material creation from corruption and futility and release it into the liberty of the glory of the children of God. This is the apostolic word concerning the eternal purpose of the Lord God of Heaven (Romans 8:18-23).
The coming of the Kingdom of God is the appearing of the Lord Jesus from Heaven and the union of the spiritual Heaven and the physical earth. When this takes place, the earth no longer will be merely physical. The earth itself will be the eternal blend of the physical and spiritual that is the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom comes from above, from Heaven. The Kingdom is of Heaven, that is, of the Presence and Glory of God. When the Kingdom of God comes to the earth, the earth will be filled with God’s glory. All we associate with Heaven will then be found in the earth, not in the sky above us.
The Kingdom of God is the clothing of Divine Glory with flesh and bones, and the clothing of flesh and bones with Divine Glory, with eternal Life.
When the Lord shows people visions of Heaven He is revealing to them that which is true in the holy area of the spirit realm. That which is true in the holy area of the spirit realm is destined to be united eternally with flesh and bones, with all that is of the saved material creation. This is the coming to earth of the Kingdom of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the Firstborn of the Kingdom of God. Christ is filled with Divine Glory and clothed with Divine Glory, with incorruptible resurrection Life. Christ includes within Himself all that is desirable of the spirit realm, all that is of the Heaven of God. Christ Is the Tree of Life in the midst of the Paradise of God.
Eternal Divine Glory was born in a manger. Divine Glory became flesh and tented among us. Divine Glory revealed on the earth the powers of the age to come. The Life from Heaven was crucified. The Word from Heaven descended into Hell, and then was raised up again to the surface of the earth, now being resurrected flesh and bones—no longer only a Spirit. Eternal Divine Life was raised from the surface of the earth and “a cloud received him out of their sight.”
When we receive Christ, eternal Divine Glory is born within us. When we die we lose our flesh and bones because Christ (eternal Life) has not touched them as yet. But our saved spirit and soul continue in the Presence of Christ and God through the Holy Spirit.
One day soon the physical heaven (sky) above us will be rolled back as a scroll. The Presence of God will appear, not in blessing only but also in fiery judgment. The Presence of God in Christ will destroy the demons from the face of the earth. Satan will be bound for a thousand years.
Then the Presence and ways of Heaven will begin to be restored on the earth. The nations of saved peoples of the earth will be forced by a rod of iron to observe the Kingdom laws given in the Sermon on the Mount. There will be great peace and glory on the earth during the thousand-year period, but God’s throne will remain “in Heaven,” that is, above the clouds, but the throne already will have begun to be transferred to the hearts of the victorious saints, starting at the time of the rule of Antichrist, we believe.
At the conclusion of the thousand-year period the perfected elect will descend from the new heaven to the new earth as the Wife of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem.
Since the perfected Church, the new Jerusalem, is not seen at the beginning of the thousand-year period but is revealed at the end of the thousand-year period, it may be true that the spiritual Jerusalem will be perfected during the thousand-year period known as the Millennium.
At the end of the thousand-year period (Millennium; Kingdom Age) the eternal purposes of God concerning the Church, the nations of the saved, and the wicked, who will be cast into that worst of all prisons, the Lake of Fire, will have been fulfilled. Then the present physical earth and heaven will “pass away.” Peter states that “the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (II Peter 3:12).
How God will preserve the bodies of people during this time we do not know.
Now there will come into being a new heaven and a new earth; not just a new heaven, but a new heaven and a new earth.
God is not making all new things, He is making all things new. The program is one of restoration, of the redemption of that which God created in the beginning.
The new earth will be filled with Heaven, with God’s glory. The nations of the saved will be living on it.
Down from the new heaven, from the newly created firmament, will descend the glorified Church that has been “prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” This marks the full and eternal restoration of God’s Presence to the earth. God once again can walk in the garden in the cool of the day, but this time in His elect as well as with them.
The end result of redemption, therefore, is not to “go” anywhere. It is to receive into ourselves the Life of Heaven. If we make a profession of faith in Christ, and then wait to die and go to Heaven, we will have missed the mark. If we do not address ourselves with all our heart to serving the Lord Jesus Christ we will be laying up for ourselves punishment and terror (or worse), and not a crown of glory, when the Lord Jesus returns from Heaven.
The wise give themselves every day of their discipleship to the development of the Kingdom of God within themselves, to receiving the Life of Heaven, Christ, into themselves. They keep Jesus’ Word; they do what He says. They serve the Lord in all good works as the Holy Spirit gives them the wisdom and power to do so. When the Lord Jesus returns from Heaven with His holy angels they will shine as the stars of the firmament.
The Scriptures do not emphasize our going to Heaven but rather the coming of the Kingdom of God into the earth. God’s intention is to restore, through the Lord Jesus Christ, all that was lost to mankind by Adam’s disobedience; and then to add immeasurably more of His Presence and glory.
The Hebrew Prophets never at any time spoke of the righteous going to Heaven, but on many occasions they portrayed the restoring of God’s glory to the earth. It is the Prophets who make us wise unto salvation.
And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ. (II Timothy 3:15)
The Prophets describe the restoration of God’s Presence to the earth:
Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen [nations] for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. (Psalms 2:8)
All the earth shall worship thee, and shall sing unto thee; they shall sing to thy name. Selah. (Psalms 66:4)
And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:9)
He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. (Isaiah 42:4)
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. (Jeremiah 23:5)
And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever. (Ezekiel 37:25)
And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one. (Zechariah 14:9)
The Prophets speak of growth during the Kingdom Age:
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:11)
A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time. (Isaiah 60:22)
But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. (Malachi 4:2)
The Prophets speak of our being established in righteousness during the Kingdom Age:
In righteousness shalt thou be established: thou shalt be far from oppression; for thou shalt not fear: and from terror; for it shall not come near thee. (Isaiah 54:14)
The Prophets speak of our being glorified marvelously:
O thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay thy stones with fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. (Isaiah 54:11)
The Lord Jesus warned that some of His servants would be punished because of their behavior:
And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. (Luke 12:47)
Paul goes on to teach:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. (II Corinthians 5:10)
The “we” includes Christians. Some Christians will receive a heavy punishment when the Lord comes. Paul knew the “terror” of the Lord in this respect.
There are those who are beyond redemption. They will be cast into the Lake of Fire to dwell with the False Prophet, Antichrist, Satan, Satan’s angels, and the people of this depth of evil. Never again will they be released to destroy the handiwork of God. Any human being who is judged worthy of the Lake of Fire has brought on himself a fate far worse than anything we can comprehend.
The Prophets never portrayed the righteous as living forever in the Heaven above us. Rather, they spoke of the glory of the saints when they have been perfected in righteousness, holiness, and obedience to the Father, and then established as the Kingdom of God: that is, as the city that rules the nations of saved peoples of the earth.
The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time. (Isaiah 60:19-22)
Compare with the above the vision given to John, the Apostle of Christ:
And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 22:3-5)
The true saints go to be with the Lord when they die. This is marvelous beyond all marvels.
It is also true that one day the Throne of God will come down from Heaven above us and be established on the earth so that the nations of the saved can enjoy the Presence and blessing of God in Christ in His saints forever, ages without end. This is even more wonderful.
(“Going to Heaven”, 3568-1)