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Heaven, will we go there?

Does the Bible promise that we shall go to the heaven where God dwells?


                             by

                         Keith Hunt



     The belief and teaching that all humans have natural
immortality via an immortal soul can be traced back thousands of
years. We can see from history that nations like Egypt and
Babylon taught their people with teaching (some even as
"religious" teachings) about an immortal soul dwelling in every
human, that continued to live, to think, to experience life,
after the body had died. Depending on the nation and on their
spiritual theology they had, would come various teachings about
where and under what conditions this immortal soul would
experience after the death of the physical body. Some nations
would bury the dead body in graves with all kinds of physical
accoutrements for the departed to take with them and to use to
enjoy the after life.
     Different nations may have had different places where the
departed soul would live when it left the dead body, but to put
it in simple language, the immortal soul was in a "heaven" of
some sort. They even had gloomy underworlds for those not thought
to have done enough good in their physical lives to warrant the
prize of "heaven."
     Adolph Erman writes in "The Ancient Egyptians" (translated
by Aylaward M. Blackman): "The Pyramid Texts are mainly concerned
with the desire of the august dead to avoid leading a gloomy
existence in the underworld - the fate of ordinary mortals - and
to dwell in the sky like the gods. There he might voyage with the
sun-god in his ship, or dwell in the fields of the blessed, the
Field of Food-offerings, or the Fields of Iaru (or Alu). He might
himself become a god, and the fancy of the poets strives to
depict the king in this new role. No longer is he a man whom the
gods graciously receive into heaven but a conqueror who seizes
heaven from them" (page 2).

     The Egyptians believed that before the soul of the dead
could reach the Egyptian "heaven" and appear in the presence of
Orisis, they must traverse a vast underworld region which was
inhabited by gods, devils, friends, demons, good and bad spirits
and souls of the wicked. Also in this underworld were snakes,
monsters, and serpents. The Egyptian sacred book, "The Book
of the Dead," prescribed spells, incantations, prayers, charms
and amulets to help the dead man overcome the dangers of the Tuat
and to reach Sekhet Aaru and Sekhet hetep - the other names
for the Egyptian "heaven" and to take his place among the
subjects of Orisis in the "Land of Everlasting Life" (E.A. Wallis
Budge, "The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians" pages 40-41).

     The Egyptians taught that the arriving dead were ushered
into a Hall of Judgment over which Orisis presided. 
     "When the verdict is favorable and he has been cleared of
any impurity, his heart is restored, and after several other
ordeals, he is ushered into the bright Elysian Fields (the Fields
of Alu) beyond the water....Henceforth, he enjoys the perennial
life of the blessed under the shadow of the tree of life, or the
sycamore of Nut, the goddess of the sky, a true Orisis" (Kohler,
"Heaven and Hell in Comparative Religion," page 22).

     If the verdict was un-favorable, the sinner experienced the
"second death." He was dismembered and fierce tortures awaited
him. These included burning by hot coals, plunging into
deep water, or cutting the body into pieces by sharp swords. Says
Kohler: "We have here the very origin of the Inferno and
Paradiso" (page 23).

     Ah,  all this should start to sound somewhat familiar with
certain teaching and beliefs of many "Christian" churches and
organizations. Many have certain heard the "hell-fire and
brimstone" sermons preached loud and vigorously by many a
Christian minister or Camp-meeting tent revivalist. Such
preaching of course includes telling you that if you "give your
heart to the Lord" and turn from sin, you can "go to heaven" and
live in bliss, doing...well they are not sure, except for the
singing and plucking on a harp.

     Just about ALL Christians today believe they shall "get to
heaven" one day. They firmly believe that going to heaven is one
of the basic rewards of Christians. To think, and to teach
otherwise, to them, is pretty close to being a nutty and strange
heretic. They are convinced the Bible shows and tells us that
going to heaven is the automatic enclave of the children of God.
And most believe that going to heaven takes place when the
physical body stops breathing and dies.
     Yet this common and prevailing theological view was not, to
the surprise of many, the common view or teaching of the early
New Testament Church of God. Here is what The New International
Encyclopedia has to say on the subject of "heaven" in volume 9,
pages 700-701.

     "The dominant view in the early church seems to have been
that until the return of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven to
raise the dead, those who had died were ASLEEP, and  that
they would be suddenly awakened to be given their new bodies,
after which they would reign with Him on earth for a thousand
years....."

     It would seem from this that the early NT church did not
teach or believe in going to heaven at death, for those faithful
Christians. But, gradually things began to change. The
aforementioned Encyclopedia goes on to say:

     " But, largely under the influence of Greek thought, other
conceptions (gradually) prevailed. The fate of the patriarchs,
prophets, and pious men of the old dispensation naturally
occupied much attention and led to the idea that they (their
'immortal souls') were detained in a preparatory abode which the
fathers called limbus patrum, awaiting the advent of the
Redeemer. The general belief of the Christians has been that
since the resurrection of Christ the just who are free from sin
are admitted immediately after death into heaven, where their
chief joy consists in the unclouded vision of God."

     Church history shows that through the teachings of people
like Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others, most professing
Christians gradually came to adopt the belief of the immortal
soul, and going immediately "somewhere" after the death of the
body.  Many were coming into the popular church of the Roman
Empire, founded in Rome, who already held to Hellenistic
philosophy, Egyptian mythology, and Babylonian Mystery religions,
with the after death life of some sort as the foundation of it
all. They did not want to give up this teaching and belief, just
as they did not want to abandon many other false teachings and
practices. So, to accommodate them the large popular church took
many of these old pagan beliefs and re-clothed them with
Christian garments. Hence, as the millenniums came and went
today's doctrines of the immortal soul as taught together with an
ever burning hell fire for the wicked, a purgatory for those who
may not have sinned unto eternal torment, and can possibly yet be
granted heaven, and a heaven where God is for the righteous, all
came into formation.

     We have covered in very deep detail, through the writings of
Basil Atkinson PhD. what the Bible has to say on death, hell, and
immortality, as well as the resurrection and fate of the
un-repented wicked. I refer the read to these studies for the
answer to those topics. I shall continue in this study to focus
on the word "heaven" as used in the New Testament.

     I grew up believing, just as most Christians believe, that
if you live a good Christian life here and now, you will go to
heaven at death, but if you do not live that good Christian life
then you will at death go to an ever burning hell. Most
Christians believe they will at some point "get to heaven" where
God is dwelling, somewhere out there in the universe. Some like
the Seventh Day Adventists do not believe you go to heaven at
death, but that death is a sleep until the resurrection, then
when Jesus returns to raise the righteous dead, all go back with
Him to heaven for a thousand years, until the new earth comes
into being. Others believe that Christ returns to "rapture" His
church away from the terrible tribulation taking place on the
earth, and that they spent either 7 years or 3 and 1/2 years in
heaven, before returning again with Christ to set up the
Kingdom of God on earth for a thousand years.
     Whatever the various beliefs of certain religious sects and
denominations is on this matter, just about all of them teach and
believe that the good Christian will some day for some period
of time "go to heaven" where the Father lives and dwells in the
heavenly Jerusalem.

            IF WE SHALL GO TO HEAVEN ONE DAY....

     And if this is a fundamental plain teaching of the Bible,
then surely we should be able to find many verses ALL OVER the
Bible saying things such as: "When we get to heaven,"
"When we see each other in heaven," "They are up there in heaven
with God," "We shall go to heaven at Christ's return," "We shall
be in heaven where God is one day." BUT VERSES LIKE THIS CANNOT
BE FOUND IN THE BIBLE!
     Christians use such terminology all the time. Preachers use
it from the pulpit. Why then didn't the people of the Bible use
such language? Could it be that they knew that going off to
heaven where God the Father now dwells was NEVER promised to any
earthy mortal person?

                        HEAVEN...HEAVENLY...HEAVENS

     The word "heaven" is used 570 times in the Bible. "Heavenly"
appears 23 times and "heavens" is used 121 times. Surely,
somewhere, in all those uses we can find a statement:
"When we are in heaven" or "We are going to go to heaven" or
maybe "He has gone to God in heaven." If you take a concordance
of the Bible such as "Strong's Concordance" you can find all
the verses where "heaven," "heavenly," and heavens" are used
throughout the Bible. Look them up! See if you can find a verse
that says, "We shall go to heaven, " "Heaven is our eternal
abode," "They are up in heaven" or ANY plain statement about
Christians or children of God going to be with God in heaven for
ANY length of time. You have over 500 places where "heaven" is
used. Try to find such language that tells us clearly we shall
one day, some day, go where God the Father is now living.

     There are THREE heavens mentioned in the Bible. 1) The
heaven where the birds fly. 2) the heaven where the planets and
stars are. 3) The heaven where God's throne is, where God now
dwells.
     Notice, "I knew a man in christ....such an one caught up to
the THIRD heaven....He was caught up into PARADISE, and heard
unspeakable words...." (2 Cor. 12:2-4). And, "To him that
overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life which is in the
midst of the PARADISE of God" (Rev.2:7).
     And also, "And he showed me a pure river of water of
life....proceeding out of the THRONE of God....in the midst of
the street of it....was there the TREE OF LIFE...." (Rev.22:1-
2). 
     The THIRD heaven is where God dwells!

                     KINGDOM OF HEAVEN ?

     Some will say, "Well Christ talked about our being in the
Kingdom of heaven. Surely that proves we shall 'go to heaven'."
     If it does, then some shall be in heaven while others are
not. Read matthew 5:3-5. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for
theirs is the Kingdom of heaven....blessed are the meek, for
they shall inherit the earth."
     Will some then be in heaven while others will be on earth?
     The word "OF" denotes OWNERSHIP, not place. If I say to you
that this house is "the house of Smith" you instantly know I mean
it is the house that BELONGS to smith, not that it is the house
INSIDE Smith.
     The Kingdom OF heaven is the Kingdom that BELONGS to heaven.
It is owned and operated by heaven. 
     The Gospels according to Mark and Luke uses "Kingdom OF God"
- the Kingdom that BELONGS to God, not the Kingdom inside God.

                     REWARD IS IN HEAVEN

     Is not our reward to go to heaven? Someone may ask that
question. Are there not some verses that say something to that
effect? Yes, there are verses that talk about a "reward in
heaven." Here they are: "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for
great is your reward in heaven...." (Mat.5:12). "Take heed that
you do not your arms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise
you have no reward of your Father which is in heaven" (Mat.6:1).
"But lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven....." (Luke 6:23).
"To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth
not away, reserved in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4).

     Now, let's be honest. Do the above verses say: "Our reward
is to get  to heaven" or "When we get to heaven we shall be given
our reward." Do these verse say: "Our reserved inheritance is to
get to heaven to be with God" ?  No, they do not!  Truly,
Christians are to receive rewards and we are to inherit eternal
life, but when? Eternal life comes at the resurrection. Read 1
Cor.15; Rev.2:10; 2 Tim.4:8 and see our studies on death, hell,
immortality and resurrection. Our rewards are to be given to us
by Christ at His return. "And, behold, I come quickly, and MY
REWARD IS WITH ME, to give every man according as his work shall
be" (Rev. 22:12).
     Our rewards and inheritance are reserved in heaven. They
come down out of heaven with Christ at his return.

                   NAMED TO GO TO HEAVEN?

     Are not Christians named and written down in a book to go to
heaven? Are there not some verses that say so?  There are these:
",,,,but rather rejoice, because your names are written
in heaven" (Luke 10:20). "To the general assembly and church of
the firstborn, which are written in heaven...." (Heb. 12:23).
     Do these verses say, "Because you will go to heaven" or "The
church of the firstborn will one day get to heaven" ?  No!  Our
names (God knows who are His) are written down in the book of
life, the book of life being in heaven. But we receive life
eternal at Christ's return in glory, when the resurrection of the
righteous saints takes place. See John 5: 25-29; 1 Cor. 15; 1
Thes. 4: 16; and John 6: 37-39.
     These verses in Luke and Hebrews do not say we shall go to
heaven to live for a short or long period of time.

                OUR HOPE....TO GO TO HEAVEN?

     "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof
you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel"
(Col.1:5). What is the hope for Christians? Paul answers in
another letter he wrote: "But if there be NO RESURRECTION of the
dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then
is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.....then they
which are also fallen asleep in Christ are PERISHED....For as in
Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But
every man on his own order: Christ the firstfruits: AFTERWARDS
they that are Christ's AT HIS COMING" (1 Cor. 15: 13-23). 
     Our HOPE is Christ, who has been raised from the dead and is
now in heaven, waiting to be sent back to this earth when He
shall RESURRECT the DEAD (1 Thes.4: 16). 
     This verse in colossians does NOT say, "Our hope is to get
to heaven." "The church's hope is to be with Christ in heaven."
It does not say WE are to be laid up in heaven. But our HOPE is
laid up in heaven. That hope is Christ and His return and the
saints to be resurrected.

                     OUR CONVERSATION...
                   IS IT TO GO TO HEAVEN ?

     Is not  the verse in Philippians telling us that Christians
are to talk about "going to heaven" ? The verse reads: "For our
CONVERSATION is in heaven; from whence also we look for the
Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" (Phil. 3: 20). Does the verse say,
"our conversation is about being with Christ in heaven" or "our
talk should be about going to heaven"? No! This verse is
not even talking about "words" we speak. The word "conversation"
used here is a very poor translation of the original Greek. It
should have been translated "citizenship." See Strong's
Concordance of the Bible. The Amplified Bible translation renders
this verse: "But we are CITIZENS of the state (commonwealth,
homeland) which is in heaven...."
     Notice! This STATE is in heaven that we are citizens of. If
we be Christ's, we belong to His family. We are brothers of His
(see Hebrews 2). We are part of God's family, His children,
and so His government, kingdom, which is now in heaven. Not that
we are in heaven, for we are on earth, but the STATE, where our
citizenship is, that we now belong to, is in heaven. 
     "And," the verse continues, "from it,' that is from heaven,
"also we earnestly and patiently await (the coming of) the Lord
Jesus Christ, the Messiah, (as) Savior" (Amplified Bible).
     Yes, again Paul says we look to, wait, hope in Christ's
return and the resurrection.

               NO MAN HAS EVER GONE TO HEAVEN

     Here is a plain and easy to understand verse: "And NO MAN
has ASCENDED up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven,
even the Son of man which is in heaven" (John
3: 13). 
     Will you BELIEVE what Christ said? He should know. he was in
heaven with the Father from the beginning, and He did not see any
human ever come from earth up to heaven. That's correct, Enoch
did not go to the third heaven, neither did Moses, nor did
Elijah.  All humans who have ever lived, or will live, up to the
return of the Christ, and are not still alive when Jesus
comes, will have DIED. They will be in the grave, ASLEEP, and
waiting to hear the voice of the Son of man, to rise from the
dead in a resurrection. They will meet Christ is the clouds, in
the air, and will on that same day return with jesus to the Mount
of Olives and to the city of Jerusalem. From there, and for a
thousand years they shall reign with Christ on His throne over
this earth, as they establish the Kingdom of God. 
     At the end of the thousand years comes the new heavens and
the new earth, as foretold in the last chapters of Revelation.
Then the heavenly Jerusalem together with God the Father will
come from heaven to this new earth, which will then become the
new heaven of the throne of the universe for all Eternity.

     I guess we could say that we, the children of God, will one
day be in heaven.....yes.....when heaven comes to earth.

     For all the truths on this subject please read the studies
on "Death, Hell, and Immortality," "Mansions in the Sky," "Enoch,
Moses, and Elijah, are they in Heaven?" "Lazarus and the Rich
Man."

                .............................

Written in 1981

All studies and article by Keith Hunt may be copied, published,
e-mailed, and distributed as led by the Spirit. Mr.Hunt trusts
nothing will be changed (except for spelling and punctuation
errors) without his consent.
      

 
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