Updated: Heaven Can Wait
The idea of being good, which most of us would hasten to say we are despite Mark 10:18, and then after dying, going off to Heaven to live happily ever after all sounds well and good. But there is a slight hitch in this. After our last breath, when we depart our “dust” vehicle that’s taken us through life on this Earth, our “soul” doesn’t go to “Heaven” to live there happily ever after, well at least not that place in the clouds or wherever it is that we are supposed to merrily cavort with beautiful Renaissance-esque blonde harp playing angels while gazing into the face of God.
There are two problems with this idea of “going to Heaven” to live happily ever after according to Christ and the apostles as found in the Biblical record. First, the Heaven that Christians believe we are going to for all eternity, is not going to last for an eternity. It’s temporary. We read in the book of Matthew, Christ said, "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.” [Mat. 24:35].
The apostle Peter also tells us the same thing. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the Heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the Earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” [2 Pet. 3:10]. Considering the amount of heat that must be involved in melting elements [apparently at least 100 billion degrees K to 18 trillion+], ironically it turns out that Heaven sounds more like Dante's inferno.
Second, the kingdom of God is coming to Earth, at least according to the Biblical record. [See Heb. 2:5, Greek, world, oikoumenē, the inhabited Earth]. But since when do we Christians pay heed to what it says? [See the Feature article, The Love Of The Truth]. So, it turns out that God is coming to Earth, we’re not going to Heaven. How did we get things so backwards? [See the Feature article, Three Temple Ages Make A Plan].
If Christians believe they will be in Heaven, they are going to miss out on the kingdom of God and the new Jerusalem, which will be on Earth. Granted it is a new Earth, but Earth nevertheless. Let’s read it straight from the source and then we’ll look at where the confusion about this originates.
We find revealed in the appropriately named book of Revelation, “Now I saw a new Heaven and a new Earth, for the first Heaven [this is the one we presently experience and expect to go to after death by being good] and the first Earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven [the new one] from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from Heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” [Rev. 21:1-3; see the Sneakers article, No More Oceans].
So if Christians are going to be in Heaven, and the new Jerusalem is coming down out of Heaven to the new Earth, and God’s tabernacle is here on Earth and he will dwell with mankind on Earth, and be their God, it figures to be pretty lonely up there in Heaven especially as the Heaven that now exists, where Christians have been figuring to go for an eternity, will have passed away in a fervent heat. Do the Christians in Heaven at that time pass away with the old Heaven? I guess this theological dilemma puts them in what, limbo? But now limbo has been abolished by the pope, so where does this leave us?
While the kingdom of God is referred to as the kingdom of Heaven in the gospels [Mat. 3:2 et al.], we’ve seen that God’s dwelling place is coming down from the new Heaven to the new Earth. So as we read above, the kingdom of Heaven will not be in Heaven forever. But until the new one, our Father is still in the temporary Heaven, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.” [Mat. 5:16]. Of the six basic tenets that form the foundation of Christian theology, dying and going to Heaven is not one of them. [See the Sneakers article, Name Those Tenets].
The whole idea of living for an eternity in the Heaven where our Father currently resides, beginning for Christians with the resurrection of Christ, is contrary to what the Biblical record tells us. [See related Feature articles, Easter, Babylon And The Antichrist and Guess Who's Coming To Supper?] This should come as no surprise. After all, when we recite the Lord’s Prayer does it not say, “Our Father in Heaven, to your kingdom we go …?” Or does it say, “Our Father in Heaven, your kingdom come …? God is bringing his kingdom, his power and authority, here, that is to a new Earth; we’re not going there to live happily ever after. [See the Feature articles, And It's Still A Mystery and The Final Prophecy: It Is Done]. Not to get too involved, but it appears that the Heaven our Father inhabits is of dimensions different and greater than our 4-D space-time universe. But confined in our 4-D world, we can't comprehend what it is like. For a relative idea of comprehending what this might be like from our perspective, see the animated video from What The Bleep Do We Know?, Dr. Quantum Visits Flatland.
The word used for Heaven in the New Testament is the Greek ouranos. It is the starry universe or what we call the sky. It’s the same word, essentially, as the name of the planet Uranus, named after the Greek god that is the “godification” of the sky. It’s what we see if we go to one of those planetarium light shows that project the stars onto a domed ceiling. It’s also the place of God’s temporary habitation at this point in time albeit in different dimensions. [See Acts 7:48-50; also see the Feature article, Brown Paint: Quantum Potentialities].
The modern concept of partying for all eternity in Heaven, that extraterrestrial paradise with harp playing angels, where ecstasy is not only legal, but is absolutely expected are fictions brought over from the Roman Catholic Church. And it is a poor fictional substitute at that.
To wit, “By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints ... and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died ... or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death ...) [this is a reference to the Roman Church idea of blemished souls doing time in purgatory, perhaps for eating meat on a Friday, before moving on to Heaven, provided, of course, they get there before it passes away] already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgement - and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into Heaven - have been, are and will be in Heaven, in the Heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.
“This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed - is called "Heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” [Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Part One, Section Two, Chapter Three, Article 12, II. Heaven].
The first thing we could point out is that this is strictly an idea invented by the Roman Catholic Church. “By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following ....” The Roman Church also defines, “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.” But, actually, according to the Biblical record, they aren’t the first to have this idea that going to Heaven is the ultimate end, a fulfilling of one’s deepest longings. "How you are fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations [of Israel]! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God ….” [Isa. 14:12, 13].
As noted above, however, by virtue of his authority, God has defined the fullness of the kingdom of God as being on the new Earth where God will dwell with mankind as we’ve just read in Revelation. What we choose to believe depends in whose authority we choose to place our faith. From the survey of Protestant evangelicals, it appears most side with the Roman Church. [See the Sneakers article, Nope To Pope].
If the Roman Catholic Church wishes to wrongly invoke Mat. 18:18, "Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven,” even though they are not the “you” mentioned in Matthew, there is still the one big no-no mentioned in the book of Revelation. “For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” [Rev. 22:18, 19; also Mat. 18:6].
The Roman Catholic Church is clear, “Heaven is the ultimate end ….” The book of Revelation is clear. “Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of Heaven [the new one] from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from Heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” It appears the Roman Catholic Church doctrine, by virtue of their apostolic authority, is the antithesis of those things that are written in the book of Revelation by virtue of God's authority.So what’s really going on according to the Biblical record? Resurrections … from the dead, not the living in Heaven. Recall, as Paul pointed out in Hebrews 6:1, 2, that resurrections and eternal judgement are two of the basic principles of Christianity. The entire doctrine of "going to Heaven as the ultimate end" is not one of them. Rather, it is one of the massive frauds perpetrated on Christianity by the Roman church, and blindly followed by others. [See the Feature article, Moving Forward]. There is a reason why in the end times the Book of Revelation mentions both the beast and the false prophet. [The Palace Coup].
There are two resurrections in the Biblical record. The first resurrection takes place at Christ's return. The second when this Earth passes away. The word resurrection, Greek anastosis, means a raising up. But if we’re already raised up and running around Heaven for eternity, why would we need to go back to being dead to be raised up again at a resurrection, on Earth when supposedly Heaven, the celestial paradise, is the ultimate end? It makes no sense from the point of view of God’s authority and the Biblical record. [See the Feature article, The Risk Of Loving The Truth].
We read in Revelation, “And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.” [Rev. 20:5, 6]. The first resurrection is at Christ’s second coming when he will reign on this Earth for a period of 1000 years of peace before this Earth and Heaven pass away in a fervent heat.
But how is it possible that the rest of the dead did not live again, apparently not just in Heaven but anywhere, for at least a 1000 more years? Weren’t these good dead folks supposed to be alive and in Heaven? The answer is simple. We remain asleep in Christ, or in the grave, not alive in Heaven, at the death of our mortal flesh. So much for uncle Bob and aunt Gertrude looking down at us from on high.
Again, who is it that said in his heart, “I will ascend into Heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God …?” [Read The Hijacked Elephant beginning in chapter six for details of the resurrections].
The apostle Paul explains it for us. “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, [meaning those who have died in the flesh] lest you sorrow as others who have no hope [of life after physical death]. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who remain alive until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. [This is the second coming of Christ. See chapter five, The Hijacked Elephant for details]. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. [Greek, aer meaning air not Heaven]. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.” [1 Ths. 4:13-17].
Paul makes it clear that at Christ’s return, the dead in Christ shall rise first, not descend alive from Heaven to "take up their bodies again," provided, of course, those bodies haven't turned to dust in the meantime, and blown to the four corners of the Earth, or got eaten by fish if they died at sea, or worse for those who believe life begins at conception. What if you died just seconds after conception? Would you come back as a fertilized egg, and have to wait 9 months to be resurrected? And in whose womb? And what happens if your mother had a hysterectomy after your conception, now what? Talk about creating ridiculous, and unnecessary, theological conundrums. [See The Sneakers article, Biologically Irrefutable, Guv’nor?].
Back to the Biblical record, those who remain alive on Earth, still being mortals at that time, will join up with Christ at his return. By definition, if we are alive in Heaven, we can’t be dead and rise from the Earth at Christ’s return. It’s plain that by Paul’s authority from Christ, he is telling us we are not alive in Heaven after we die. We are asleep in Christ. Then at Christ’s return, the dead shall be raised up to immortality, in the spirit, not joined again to our former mortal bodies as the Roman Church erroneously assumes.
The apostle Paul further explains the first resurrection. “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet [just prior to Christ's return]. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible [no physical human body], and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.'” [1 Cor. 15:50-54].
At the second or great resurrection, we read, “The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades [the grave, hell] delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” [Rev. 20:13]. Again, if we’re alive in Heaven, the ultimate end, supposedly we’ve already been judged as “good,” what are we doing then coming back to be raised from the dead, from our grave, to “take up our bodies again, and be judged then too?” This makes no sense if we’re already alive in Heaven. But it makes complete sense when we sleep in Christ at the death of our mortal bodies awaiting the resurrection to immortality in the spirit at his return. Our souls don’t come back and reunite with our mortal bodies as the Roman church claims. There’s no need. The kingdom of God is of the spirit, different dimensions, and not of the flesh in our 4-D world.
As Paul said, flesh and blood, our mortal bodies, cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We put on new immortal, non-fleshly bodies after we are raised from the dead or sleep. And this only occurs either at the first resurrection at Christ’s return, which has not yet occurred or at the great resurrection after Christ’s return and after more than a thousand years into our future when Heaven will have passed away. "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." [1 John 3:2].
At death, we don’t go to Heaven, alive in that ultimate celestial paradise living happily ever after. Rather, at death we leave our mortal bodies and our spirit returns to God who gave it. We are dead, or asleep, in Christ until his return or until the great day of judgement that is the second resurrection. Think of it like a movie you take out and watch on your television. It is "alive" while you watch it. When the movie is finished, you eject it from the player or computer and put it back. Done.
As a group, it seems that we Christians are illiterate in our spiritual understanding of the Biblical record, which plainly tells us the dead are asleep, not frolicking in Heaven. The apostle Peter stood up on the first day of Christianity and explained that even our patriarch David, of whom Christ said he was his son [Mat.1:1; also Rev. 22:16], “… he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.” [Acts 2:29]. David had been dead about a 1000 years by that time. The point Peter is making is that if anyone deserved to have been resurrected and in Heaven at that time, it would have been David, a man after God’s own heart. [See Acts 13:22, 23; also Eze. 37:24-28; and Rev. 22:16]. And Peter is saying this after the death, resurrection and acension of Christ. Therefore, if David is not cavorting around Heaven, from the Biblical perspective, no one is.
Where are our shepherds to guide us to the truth? The dead will rise, as in wake up, “changed in the twinkling of an eye,” with Christ first at his second coming. This is hardly the image we have of those who have died and “gone to Heaven.” Supposedly, they are eternally awake, playing harps with angels and looking at God’s face, even as we speak.
According to the Roman Catholic Church, by virtue of their apostolic authority, “Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face ….” I guess they forgot to tell our Father in Heaven to tell Christ who told John about this when he jotted down the book of Revelation long after Christ’s death, oh, and his resurrection from the dead.
For some reason, the Roman church is fixated on Christ being dead. Go into one of their churches and the focal point is Christ dead on the cross, the Roman Empire's device of torture and death. Even their priests carry around with them large copies of this Roman state symbol of death. Instead, imagine them carrying around, for example, an image of an electric chair. It's just as crazy. All the visuals are geared to reminding us about Christ's death. We should throw away these symbols of death, and focus on the fact that our Lord and Savior, our Redeemer was resurrected and is alive, the king of kings, our great High Priest [Heb. 4:14], having brought us the promise of resurrection from the dead, and eternal life in the kingdom of God on a new Earth. [See Mat. 12:26, 27; also the Feature article, Heaven Can Wait II].
I don’t know about you, but when I go to sleep, I don’t tend to see much, not even my wife’s face, which is right next to me. Personally, I look forward to the return of Christ, whether I’m asleep or alive in the flesh at that time. Heaven can wait.
1 Christian Post article, Most Evangelicals Believe Good People are Heaven-Bound, 17 December 2010.
Italics, bold and [ ] are the author's.
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"And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband."