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The Daily Word of Righteousness
Going to Heaven
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: (II Thessalonians 1:7,8)
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. However, the Apostles of Christ preached the return of Christ in His Kingdom, not our going to Heaven.
An incorrect goal leads to the wrong approach to the process of redemption.
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.
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.
To be continued.