Archive for December, 2011

Not one person has ascended into Heaven except Jesus – according to Jesus!

I would like take issue with the traditional view that faithful Christians go to heaven when they die. Truly, our treasures/rewards and our future bodies (dwelling places) are kept safe in heaven, and I acknowledge the angels, the armies of heaven, the book of life and so on, are in heaven, according to scripture. But, nowhere in the scriptures are we told plainly that we will reign in heaven or even live there. Jesus said, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man”(John 3:13). That is quite self-defining, don’t you think?

Then there’s the oft stated theology that after Jesus was raised from the dead, all the people of the Old Testament were transferred from Hades/Sheol to Heaven or Hell at that time. Where does scripture say that?

Peter declared on the day of Pentecost (many days after Jesus’ ascension) that David had not yet been raised from the dead and was therefore still in his tomb (Acts 2:29-34). The New Jerusalem is shown as descending from heaven to the New Earth in Revelation 21. That does not infer that we will live with God in heaven, but that God will dwell with us in some fashion on the New Earth (2 Peter 3:13). The early Christians emphasized the resurrection of the dead as the future Christian hope, where the Western view has become so Platonic that the resurrection has become an afterthought. Why does scripture tell us to hope in and look for the resurrection to life when one is already judged (which would be a prerequisite to entering heaven anyway) and possessing an eternal spiritual “body”? According to what many believe, people who have died have already been judged and given a new body. But, according to scripture, if there is no resurrection of the dead, then those who have died in Christ have perished (1 Corinthians 15:16-18). How could that even be a consideration if a person is already safe in heaven? Peter says God will “judge the living and the dead” at the same time (John 5:28, 1 Peter 4:5)

I got started on this after seeing so many books and supposed personal accounts of visits to heaven and hell that are available on the internet. If Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, heard things that cannot be repeated (2 Cor 12:4), how can people later be allowed to repeat them? I absolutely believe all these published reports are pure bunk!

I don’t believe a word of anyone who claims to have visited either place. The Bible states plainly that every person will die and after that comes the judgment. The judgment is clearly going to occur on “the day of the Lord”, a day when everyone, small and great, will both see God (Rev 1:7) and assemble before the throne to be judged (Rev 20:12) for the deeds done in their bodies (2 Cor 5:10, 2 Timothy 4:1).

What is the purpose of being judged? In our world and the next, it is to determine your ultimate fate, is it not? Therefore, just as we hold persons in jail to await judgment (this being an ordinance of God), surely this foreshadows the reality in the eternal realm. Jesus promised the thief a place in Paradise; not heaven. Lazarus was raised from the dead, not called back from heaven! Jesus said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep.” (John 11:11) which I believe is what scripture proves happens to those who (as in the ancient view of Daniel 12:2) fall asleep in Jesus.

The parable of Lazarus and the rich man was meant to show the Jews that their view of who was accepted by God was skewed by their thinking that being blessed in the “here and now” was indicative of God’s being pleased with a person. On the contrary, a man they considered cursed because of some secret sin found himself in Abraham’s bosom while the man who was “blessed” found himself rejected by God. And please consider that if a man was being tormented by literal flames, he would hardly prioritize a drop of water on his tongue! Again, this was parable, and was a story used to illuminate the truth of the law to the blind. I could go on about parables, but that would involve a lot of other digression.

If anyone were qualified to tell us what lay beyond the veil, it would be Lazarus, or Tabitha, or any number of others who were raised from the dead, including Samuel! But none of these have l;eft any record of this transition from life to heaven and back, have they? Because, as scripture says, “The dead do not praise the LORD, no do ANY who go down into silence.” (Psalm 115:17)

If the dead in Christ will be raised first, that fulfills Paul’s declaration that the living believers will not precede those who have died in Christ. Scripture says, “Christ will bring with Him” those who have died in faith, but where is He bringing them from? There is no reason to believe they are being brought from heaven to be united with their bodies. Rather, there is every indication that the words “also bring with Him” simply means that ALL believers will be brought with Christ to where we will be with Him forever: the New Earth and New Jerusalem.

Jesus says that those who are qualified to partake of the resurrection to life (Luke 20:35) will be “like the angels in heaven”. But, that does not infer they will be IN heaven!

Quoting Mark 12:27, where Jesus says, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.” does not mean that the dead in Christ are in heaven rather than the grave. Jesus simply means that those who are in Him are not really dead, but have already secured the promise of eternal life. This is what scripture affirms (Luke 20:37-38, John 3:16) even though it is obvious that their bodies have died/perished. But, if their bodies will be raised, then their bodies are an intrinsic part of who these people are. Else, why is there a resurrection of bodies at all? Paul goes further and says, “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.” (Romans 14:9)

Paul states to the Jews when he was arrested, that he was on trial “with respect to the hope and resurrection of the dead” (Acts 24:21, 26:8), not the doctrine of going to heaven when one dies.

When Jesus rose from the dead, it is easily proved that he did not go to heaven. Peter says He went and preached to the spirits in prison. Jesus told Mary that he had not yet ascended into heaven when she saw Him the day He arose from the dead. So where was he for three days and nights? In Hades/Sheol, the place of the dead.

Matthew tells us that many people rose from the dead (not from Paradise, Heaven or hell) when Jesus died on the cross. Yet we know that these people did not rise to eternal life, but only restored to mortal life for a short time, since scripture assures us that Jesus is the first of those raised from death forever (Acts 26:23, Romans 6:9) and is “…the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep“(1 Cor 15:20).

Lastly, what does the Bible say about our souls? Are they ever referred to as being immortal? No! In fact Paul says that it is our bodies that will be changed into imperishable vessels. So, it follows that our souls need a body to dwell in. Without a resurrection of the body, the Bible leaves no clear alternative for where our souls reside after death. Even the mention of the souls of the dead being kept under the altar in John’s Revelation, indicates that these souls are held in some form of containment “until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete” (Rev 6:11). What were these souls told to do until the consummation of these things? They are told to “rest” which is synonymous with “sleep”.

Simply put, the resurrection makes no sense at all unless it is the Great Hope of the Christian, a resurrection with only two options: eternal life or eternal death and only as a result of that final resurrection and simultaneous judgment.