Heaven is Not the Reward of the Saved
Study No. 78
Iím not going to Heaven when I die. No one has so far, and the Scriptures are plain that the earth, not Heaven, is the abode of the saved. Notice Matthew 5:5, "the meek shall inherit the earth," Psalm 115:16, "the heavens are the LORDíS, but the earth He has given to men," John 3:13, "no man hath ascended up to Heaven," and Acts 2:34, "David is not ascended into the heavens."
I Go to Prepare a Place for You
Jesus said that where He was going (Heaven), the disciples could not come, John 13:33. Did Jesus contradict Himself a few verses later in John 14:1-3? Of course not! Yet many have used these verses to support the "going to Heaven" idea. Jesus went to Heaven to prepare an office, a position of rulership, for us, as verse 2 can more appropriately be translated. Where He was going, the disciples could not come, 13:33. He would come again, receive His true followers, and where He would be, they would be there also, 14:3. He would never leave His disciples, Hebrews 13:5. After He ascended to His Father in Heaven, He would not leave them comfortless; He would come to them, John 14:18, in the form of the Holy Spirit, verses 16-17. This Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ, Philippians 2:5, I Corinthians 2:16, Romans 8:9, NOT the "third person" of a "trinity." God is a Family, not a trinity. The Family of God is composed of those having the Holy Spirit: God the Father, the Son, and the sons of God (I John 3:1-2), men and women who have the Holy Spirit, I Corinthians 12:13.
John 14 tells us that Jesus would come to His disciples in the form of the Holy Spirit and be with them. Then, in the future, Jesus Christ will return with power to this earth and rule all nations with His saints for 1,000 years ó the Millennial Kingdom of God.
In Acts 1:1-12 we are given the account of Jesus ascending to Heaven from the Mount of Olives. The angel told the disciples, verse 11, that Jesus would return in the same manner as they saw Him leaving, in a cloud, verse 9. Jesus would come back from Heaven in a cloud to the Mount of Olives. Zechariah 14 graphically displays Jesusí return, verses 4-9. The LORD ó Jesus Christ ó will stand on the Mount of Olives, which will split in two in a giant earthquake, verse 4. The saints will be with Him, verse 5. The earth shall be healed, verse 8. And the LORD shall be king over all the earth, verse 9. Nations shall beat their swords into plowshares, Isaiah 2:2-4, and all nations shall be taught Godís ways, Isaiah 2:3 and Habakkuk 2:14. Those that do not keep the Holy Days such as the Feast of Tabernacles will receive plagues from God, Zechariah 14:16-19, Isaiah 60:12.
Where He ó the Messiah ó is, there will we be also, John 14:3. He will be ruling the earth with His saints! The Lord shall descend from Heaven, and the saints, those alive at the time and changed to spirit beings along with those resurrected from the dead to life immortal, will rise in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air and thereafter be with Him forever. We know from Zechariah 14:4, that Christ shall stand on the Mount of Olives. The angel in Acts 1:11 said Jesus would return in the same way He ascended. He must complete the reverse trip. The saints will meet Him returning to the earth in the clouds, come back to the earth with Him, and rule with Christ a thousand years, Revelation 5:10, 2:26-27, 20:4-5.
During the 1,000 years, the earth will become a paradise due to the powerful righteous rule of Christ and the saints, as described in Isaiah 11. Most of mankind will be converted at that time. The great devastations wrought on the earth by the beast and Godís Seven Last Plagues described in Revelation, will not exterminate all the earthís people. Isaiah 24 is clear to this fact. In her book, The Great Controversy, Ellen G. White is dishonest with Isaiah 24:6 when she quotes all but the last words: "and few men left." Yes, there will be left a remnant, like the gleaning of grapes, verse 13. The LORD of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion in Jerusalem, verse 23. And the inhabitants of the world will then learn righteousness, Isaiah 26:9.
Man does not have an immortal soul. Souls can die, Ezekiel 18:20. In the day of a manís death, his thoughts perish, Psalm 146:4. That is why the New Testament frequently speaks of death as sleep, e.g., I Corinthians 15:51. Verse 52 shows that the dead in Christ wonít go to Heaven when they die ó they will be resurrected to eternal life when He returns.
Enoch and Elijah
What about Enoch and Elijah, those righteous men of the Old Testament? When they died, didnít they go to the Heaven where God is? No, they did not. John 3:13 means what it says. Godís Word never contradicts itself. Genesis 5:21-24 tells about Enoch, who walked with God "and he was not; for God took him." It does not say God took Enoch to Heaven. Hebrews 11:5 says that God translated Enoch so that he should not see death. We know from Jude 14-15 that Enoch preached powerful sermons in a wicked and perverse time just before the Flood. Did Enoch not die? Was he taken directly to Heaven? No, because Hebrews 11:13, in referring to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and Sarah, says that "these all died in faith, not having received the promises." They all died and must await their reward at the resurrection when Christ returns. The word "translated" in the Greek means "moved to another place." The same Greek word for "translated" here is used in Acts 7:16 as "carried over," referring to transferring Jacobís dead body to Sychem. Because Enochís preaching was gaining opposition and he was likely to be killed in that age of violence, Genesis 6:11, God took him, and he was not to be found, Genesis 5:24. The Almighty took Enoch bodily to another place, exactly as described in Acts 7:16.
II Kings 2:11 describes a fiery chariot which came and took Elijah in a whirlwind into heaven. Some suppose that this is the "heaven" where Godís throne is located. Actually, the Bible speaks of three heavens, II Corinthians 12:2. The first heaven is where the atmosphere and clouds are, from whence the rain comes, e.g., Genesis 7:11. The second heaven is outer space, home of the planets and stars, e.g., Psalm 8:3. And the third Heaven is where Godís throne is located, e.g., Psalm 11:4. A whirlwind took Elijah into heaven, according to Godís direction. Obviously it was the first heaven, for only in the atmosphere can a whirlwind be operative. God took Elijah to another place to live out his days, his office being transferred to Elisha, II Kings 2:12-15. Notice that the sons of the Prophets knew that God was going to take Elijah from them, verses 1, 3, 5. After he was taken away, they sent a search party of 50 men, but in 3 days could not find him, verses 16-17. They knew nothing about Elijah going to the third Heaven!
Elijah was taken into heaven during the reign of Jehoshaphat, King of Judah. Yet years later, a letter from Elijah came to Jehoshaphatís evil son, King Jehoram, warning him of a horrible death because he had not walked in the ways of his father Jehoshaphat, II Chronicles 21:12-15. Compare II Kings 3:1, I Kings 22:42, and II Kings 8:16 and it is inescapable: God used Elijah one more time before he died. This has puzzled Bible commentators like Adam Clarke. But the truth is simple ó if we can receive it! God took Elijah to another place on the earth. No man has ascended into the Heaven where Godís throne is.
Heaven is Coming to This Earth
The truth of the matter is, after the Millennium, God the Father and the Heavenly Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem, will descend out of Heaven, and come to dwell permanently on this earth, Revelation 21:1-5. There we will occupy the place Jesus has been preparing for us. We will then dwell with the Father and the Son forever in the new earth. I'm not going to Heaven! Heaven is coming here ó to this earth. During the 1,000 years, I will ó if I overcome with the Spiritís help ó aide in the rebuilding of the waste places, Isaiah 58:12, 61:4, and educate and train others to follow Godís ways, Isaiah 61:6. After that, the New Heavens and New Earth will be a crowning glory, Revelation 22:1-5.
That there are three heavens is clearly shown in The New Englishmanís Greek Concordance & Lexicon under the word #3772 ouranos. This word is defined in this lexicon as (a) the sky, Matthew 6:26; Luke 4:25; (b) region beyond the atmosphere, Revelation 6:13; (c) with earth as creationís sum, Matthew 5:18; (d) as the abode of God, Matthew 3:17; and of the resurrected Christian, I Peter 1:4.
The last phrase above is not true. I Peter 1:4 does not say that resurrected Christians will go to Heaven. It says that our inheritance is preserved (kept undefiled) in Heaven for us. Jesus Christ will bring our reward back from Heaven with Him when He returns, Revelation 22:12, 11:18, Colossians 3:24. Notice that I Peter 1:4 does NOT say our inheritance is Heaven, but says our inheritance is reserved in Heaven. Matthew 6:19-21, Luke 18:22, Luke 12:33-34 show that we should lay up treasures in Heaven, so that Jesus can bring our reward back to give to us at His return. Truly, if we endure persecution here and now, our reward is great in Heaven, Luke 6:23. God is keeping an account of all our deeds. We should rejoice because our names are written in Heaven, Luke 10:20.
The Kingdom Of Heaven
The Gospel of Matthew frequently mentions the "Kingdom of Heaven," Matthew 5:3, 10,19, e tc. Is this kingdom in Heaven? "Of" means "proceeding forth" or "from." Yes, the rule of the Heavenly Father and His Son, our Savior, will someday come to this earth, as it is now in Heaven, as is stated so clearly in the so-called Lordís Prayer, Matthew 6:9-10. By following this outline prayer, we are asking Godís Kingdom to come to this earth! Far from showing a kingdom in Heaven, Matthewís Gospel shows Godís kingdom on this earth. Luke uses a different term, "Kingdom of God," Luke 19:11, etc., which means the same as "Kingdom of Heaven." It is a kingdom ruled by the Almighty and His saints.
Luke 19:11-27 records the Parable of the Pounds, while Matthew 25:14-30 records the similar Parable of the Talents. The same message is in both accounts: Jesus went to Heaven, leaving gifts to us. He expects us to use them and produce results. When He returns with His kingdom, He will reckon with His servants, and reward or punish depending upon our growth with what He has given us. Nothing is even hinted that the saints will go to the "far country" (Heaven) with Jesus. Instead, He returns where they are and rewards the productive with rulership over cities.
Daniel 7 speaks of this same subject. Messiah is crowned King and given dominion, Daniel 7:13-14. The Kingdom and dominion under the whole Heaven shall then be given to the saints, who of course, shall be subject to the one who gave them the Kingdom, Daniel 7:27, 18, 22. "Under Heaven" means "on the earth." Daniel does not say that the saints will go up to Heaven.
In the days of the ten toes (ten earthly kings co-existent at the end time), the God of Heaven shall set up a Kingdom which shall never be destroyed nor left to another people. It will crush all human kingdoms and bring them to an end. But the Almightyís Kingdom shall stand forever, Daniel 2:44, Revelation 17:12-14. No, the Millennium will not be spent in Heaven. The earth will not be left desolate for 1,000 years. Jesus Christ, the stone which the builders rejected (Matthew 21:42), shall smite the wicked kingdoms of men and set up a great Kingdom that will fill the whole earth, Daniel 2:35. (Note: "mountain" in Biblical symbolism represents a kingdom or government.) The saints will rule with Christ over nations on this earth, Revelation 2:26, 5:10, 20:4.
As Nebuchadnezzar led the Babylonian "golden kingdom," and was followed by the Medo-Persian "silver kingdom," the Greek "brass kingdom," and the Roman "iron kingdom," so will the Messiah institute the "Stone Kingdom." He is the Rock, I Corinthians 10:4.
Kings and Priests
The saints shall, as we have seen, rule with Christ as Kings and Priests for a thousand years on the earth, Revelation 5:10. It is inspiring how the Old Testament prophecies confirm and expand upon this. "But ye shall be named the Priests of the LORD: men shall call you the Ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves," Isaiah 61:6. The saints will be respected by those who are learning the ways of the Eternal, Isaiah 60:14. The righteous will inherit the land forever, Isaiah 60:21.
Psalm 37 might be termed the "inheritance Psalm," because it repeats over and over the theme: the wicked may prosper for the time being, but the time is coming that the righteous shall inherit the earth, Psalm 37:9, 11, 18, 22, 28, 29, 34 (see also Matthew 5:5).
Notice the loving statement of Jesus to His faithful in Matthew 25:34, "Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world," and Revelation 21:2, "And I John saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband." Our position in the Kingdom and New Jerusalem is what Jesus said He was preparing for us in John 14.
How is it that we can inherit the earth? We certainly didnít earn this position and reward. Who made it possible for us to inherit the land? Galatians 3 says, "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ . . . . And if ye be Christís, then are ye Abrahamís seed, and heirs according to the promise," verses 26-27,29. The faithfulness of Abraham resulted in the promise that he would be "heir of the world," Romans 4:13. Yes, Abraham, father of the faithful, verse 16, was NOT promised Heaven, but the world! Neither Abraham nor any of the faithful men and women of old have yet received these promises, Hebrews 11:13. The promise the Eternal made to Abraham and the faithful was eternal life ó on this earth. The promise was repeated to those faithful few who followed Abrahamís example of faithful obedience, Genesis 26:2-5. Since Abraham and the faithful ones in the past have died without inheriting the land God promised them (Acts 7:2-5), he and the saints will have to be resurrected to eternal life to inherit the land forever (Genesis 13:14-15, I Corinthians 15:50-53). Yes, Abraham looked forward to the eternal city on this earth, Hebrews 11:8-10. At the return of Jesus, Abraham and all the saints who are co-heirs with him will inherit the Kingdom, Matthew 25:34; Daniel 7:18, 22, 27.
The Messiah came to confirm the promises made to the fathers, to extend the promised blessings to the Gentiles and all who become children of Abraham, Romans 15:8-12. Satan was the ruler of this world, II Corinthians 4:4, Matthew 4:8-10, but Christ overcame Satan and qualified to replace him as ruler of this world, Matthew 28:18, Daniel 7:13-14, Luke 1:31-33, John 3:35. Messiah will come back to take over His kingdom with the saints, who will be given positions of co-rulership with Him. He will, as the angel promised, sit on the throne of His father David, Luke 1:30-33.
Come On Down!
Isaiah prayed that the Eternal would rend the heavens and come down, causing the mountains to flow down (quake) at His presence, Isaiah 64:1-3. Nations will tremble at His presence, verse 2.
That is what we pray for as well. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth as it is in Heaven," Matthew 6:10. Godís Kingdom is in Heaven. His will is done there. We pray that it will come to this earth as well, if we earnestly pray the "Lordís Prayer."
His presence on this earth will be a day of reckoning, Jude 24, I Thessalonians 2:19, Revelation 14:10, II Thessalonians 1:7-10, Isaiah 2:10-22, Zephaniah 1:7-18. Notice how the theme of Zephaniah is that the wicked shall be cut off in the Day of the LORD, but a remnant who trust in His name shall be left. Yes, there will be a few men left! See also Nahum 1:5, Ezekiel 38:19- 23, Jeremiah 4:26-27 (notice that not all men will perish, though the cities will be forsaken, verse 29, the residue canít escape the Eternal), Psalm 114:7, 97:1-5, 68:2, 8. Yes, at His presence, the earth shall tremble, Revelation 16:17-20. Are we ready for that great event? Can anyone say that Christ is present on the earth if He is floating in the upper atmosphere? No! He will be present and accounted for at that time.
"I Shall Return"
General Douglas MacArthur was one of the great United States military leaders during World War II. He and the American troops were forced off the Philippines by the Japanese. But MacArthur courageously promised: "I shall return." And he did! He waded ashore with liberating Allied troops and the Filipinos went wild with joy. MacArthur kept his promise!
Jesus Christ said that no man hath ascended up to Heaven except He himself, John 3:13. He said that He would come again, John 14:3. Jesus described Himself in the parable of the pounds (Luke 19:11-27) as the nobleman who went into a far country (Heaven) to receive for Himself a kingdom, and to return (Luke 19:12). We are to occupy (produce results) till He comes, verse 13. When He returns, He is going to give rewards and punishments to His servants (verses 15, etc.). He will do this when He sits on His throne, Matthew 25:31-46. Where will His throne be? In the clouds above the earth? NO! His throne will be at Jerusalem, Jeremiah 3:17. Jesus said He would return, not offshore or at a distance, but to this earth. This should be our prayer, Isaiah 63:17 and 64:1-2.
The Rapture Doctrine
The rapture doctrine says that the saints will be taken off to Heaven while the Eternal sends plagues on the earth. The idea of a rapture is said to have originated with a Spanish Catholic Jesuit named Ribera, in 1580 A.D. (See "The Rapture of the Wicked," by Stephen E. Jones and "The Rapture of the Saints," by Duncan McDougall.) During a time of much bloodshed in Europe as Catholics persecuted and killed their opponents, this doctrine said that Christ was going to come and secretly snatch away the Church before a great seven-year tribulation, when the "anti-Christ" would rule the world. This futurist interpretation of the book of Revelation, along with the future coming of the Antichrist, was designed to take the pressure off the Pope, who was universally regarded as being the antichrist by His opponents.
While Revelation does describe a great many future events, it is nevertheless true that antichrist, the spirit of antichrist, was already on the scene as early as the latter part of the First Century, A.D. See I John 4:1-3. In recent times, this future antichrist idea with a pre-tribulation rapture concept, has become a popular view among Protestant churches. The idea of going to a place of safety, whether on earth or in Heaven, is a concept held by many. What is the Bible truth?
Daniel 7 is clear that the saints shall undergo much tribulation and persecution, even right up to the time that they receive the Kingdom. "I beheld, and the same horn (the little horn, verse 8) made war with the saints, and prevailed against them . . . . And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time [three and one-half times]" Daniel 7:21, 25. Verses 26-27 speak of the time when the little hornís kingdom shall be taken away and given to the saints.
Jesusí Olivet prophecy speaks of affliction and punishment befalling true Christians, Matthew 24:9-13, Luke 21:12-19. More on this later.
Rapture of the Wicked
The day of the LORD follows the tribulation (wrath of Satan), Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:9-12, 8:1. It is not a day when we will all be snatched up into heaven. It will be a time when God will shake both the heavens and the earth. He will separate the wheat and the chaff. Both will be shaken until only wheat remains. See Isaiah 13:9-13, Hebrews 12:26-28, Amos 5:18, Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43.
In Matthew 13:47-50, Jesus gives another parable of the good and bad fish caught in a net. Verse 49: "So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just." Thus if there is to be any rapture at all, it must be a "rapture of the wicked" to the lake of fire.
Matthew 24:36-42 is a section used by rapturists to twist the Scriptures to mean the opposite of its true intent. Verses 40-41 are taken out of context to support the rapture, or being taken away to a place of safety. However, verses 36-39 speak of the wicked people in Noahís day who continued "doing their own thing" and "knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be," verse 39. Those who are "taken" in verses 40-41 do not appear to be raptured to a place of safety, but taken away to be slain. As we have seen, "the righteous shall never be removed: but the wicked shall not inhabit the earth," Proverbs 10:30.
The wicked shall be reaped for punishment, Revelation 14:18-20. Jesusí prayer was NOT that His servants would be taken out of the world, but that they would be kept from the evil one, John 17:15, 20. No doubt the Savior wanted His followers to inherit the Kingdom of God on the earth, Psalm 115:16. Solomon knew this also: "For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it . . . . Be not afraid of sudden fear neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken" Proverbs 2:21-22, 3:25-26. The chaff will be blown away, Psalm 1:4.
The Supper of the Great God
Nearly all rapturists falsely teach that after the rapture the saints will attend the "marriage supper of the Lamb" in heaven for some years while the Great Tribulation rages on the earth. Revelation 19:7-9 describes the marriage supper. This is what Christ must have been referring to in Matthew 26:29, Luke 22:18 and Matthew 22:1-14, Luke 14:15-24. The Church makes herself ready and partakes of a supper with the Eternal. No passage shows that this marriage supper takes place in Heaven. Instead, it will take place when His Kingdom has been established on this earth.
There is another supper. As a result of the Eternalís war, many are slain in the winepress of His wrath. The fowls ó scavenger birds such as vultures, are called together to "the supper of the great God" and they are bidden to eat the dead flesh of those slain by the conquering Messiah, Revelation 19:10-21. Ezekiel 39:17-20 speaks of a similar event.
Truly, the wicked shall be slain, cut off from the earth, "raptured" if you will, to be slain. I donít want any part of this "rapture."
A Two-Fold Coming?
Rapturists believe that Christ will first come FOR His saints, taking them in rapture to Heaven, and then later come WITH His saints back to earth. Thus, they believe there is a two-fold coming.
I Thessalonians 4:16-17 says nothing about Christ taking the saints to Heaven. The saints meet Christ who is on His way to the earth.
Jude 14-15 is sometimes used to support the claim that Christ will come WITH His saints. Enoch prophesied saying, "Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of His saints, To execute judgment upon all . . . ." The word for "saints" is the Greek hagios meaning "holy ones," and is used to refer to Godís Holy Spirit or to true believers, as well as holy angels (Matthew 25:31, etc.). From the context, it appears that Jude 14-15 is referring to the angels who come with the returning Christ and fight along with Him in the great final battle of Armageddon, Revelation 19:14, II Thessalonians 1:7.
Another passage used by rapturists is I Thessalonians 4:14, "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him." Supposedly this verse teaches that before Christ returns, the righteous dead are taken to Heaven and now they are returning from Heaven. No, this is not the correct meaning! Paul knew that the dead are asleep, I Thessalonians 4:13-14. So did Christ, John 5:28. The righteous dead do not go to Heaven at death, they remain "asleep" in their graves, until the coming of the Lord!
A Thief in the Night
I Thessalonians 5:1-4 is another often misunderstood passage. Verse 2 says that the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night. But verse 4 says that we should not be in darkness so that day overtakes us as a thief. Will Christ return, rapture away His true believers, with the rest of mankind unaware of what happened?
Not at all! A "thief in the night" in the original Greek refers to a bandit leader and his gang who would swoop down on an unprotected village in the middle of the night, throw everyone out of bed, take everything of value and kill anyone who resisted him. Certainly not the burglar type of thief who does everything in quiet secrecy.
There will be a lot of noise and destruction when the Eternal returns, Joel 1:15, 2:1-2, II Peter 3:10. The whole earth shall see Him returning, Matthew 24:30. Donít believe in a secret coming, Matthew 24:26. He will come unexpectedly, as a thief, Revelation 3:3, 16:15, but in full view of all. Let us be ready, Matthew 24:42-51.
The Harpazo of the Saints
The word rapture comes from the Latin word raptus meaning to snatch or seize. A similar Greek word is harpazo, meaning to seize, catch away or up, pluck, pull, take by force (Strongís #726). This Greek word is used in I Thessalonians 4:17, "caught up together with them in the clouds." Does this refer to going to the third Heaven where Godís throne is? II Corinthians 12:2, 4 and Revelation 12:5 do use harpazo to refer to being caught up to Godís Heaven. But Acts 8:39 (the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip) and Jude 23 ("pulling them out of the fire") refer to merely taking from one place to another. God took Enoch (Genesis 5:24) to another place. In the same way He will take us up to meet Christ. When you go to meet someone returning to you, you donít go back with them to their home, but come back together, to your abode. At a moment when we are about to perish, the merciful Eternal will pluck us up to meet Him, as He is returning to defeat our enemies. Praise be to Him for that day!
The Place of Safety ó A Hiding Place?
Scripture does indicate that the righteous will be protected in a time of trouble. Luke 21:36 even tells us to pray to that end: "Watch ye therefore, and pray always, [so] that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man." Some of the saints, however, will have to patiently go through persecution, Luke 21:12-19.
The woman (symbolic of the Church) is persecuted by the dragon (Satan), Revelation 12:13-17. Yet there is a time in which at least part of the Church is protected in the wilderness, Revelation 12:6, 14-16.
Numerous Old Testament prophecies attest to the fact that God will protect His people. Read Job 5:20-21, Psalm 27:5, 31:20, 32:7, Isaiah 16:1-5 (see the margin on verse 1, which refers to Petra), 26:20-21, Ezekiel 5:2-4 (a few are bound in His skirts, protected), and Zephaniah 2:3. Ezekiel 9:4-6 seems to be paralleled by Revelation 7:1-8 and 9:4. Yes, there does seem to be a "place of safety" for some of Godís people, Revelation 3:10. But certainly being martyred is not necessarily a punishment of the Almighty (see Acts 5:40-41). Iíll leave it in His hands as to what He wants for me.
The place of protection may be in Moab, where Petra is, as Isaiah 16 seems to indicate. But it is on the earth, not in Heaven, Revelation 12:6, 14-16. Until God directs, I wonít be meeting with the King of Jordan to reserve Petra, or book a fleet of jets to take brethren there. Those who do such preempting of God may be leading others to another Jonestown, Guyana, mass death. (See Study No. 127, "Petra and the Place of Safety.")
As we have seen, being "caught up" is not "packing your Petra kit" and taking off in a jet, but being snatched up by God to be saved from disaster. Those in Judaea are told to flee to the mountains when they see the Abomination of Desolation, Matthew 24:15-20. Those in Judaea, not everbody in the whole world, are told to flee. That will be the time of Great Tribulation, verse 21. If all the elect are off in Heaven, the following verses are meaningless: such great deception will come so that unless they are careful, even the elect will be deceived, verses 22-24. Some of Godís people will be persecuted and flee from city to city. This will be right up until the time of the Return, Matthew 10:16-23.
Tribulation and Day of the Lord Time Sequence
Rapturists, as we have seen, believe in "two phases" of Jesusí coming: first a "secret" rapture for the saints to take them to Heaven for 3 1/2 or 7 years, while Antichrist deceives the nations and tortures all who wonít submit to him. This time they refer to as the "tribulation" and "Day of the Lord." Then they say the "second phase" of Christís coming will occur. Jesus will come visibly, in power and glory, with the saints, to conquer Antichrist.
The Bible time sequence of last day events doesnít allow for this interpretation. Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 parallel the events described in Revelation 6 and 8:
(1) false prophets (religious deception), Matthew 24:3-5, Revelation 6:2
(2) world wars, Matthew 24:6-7, Revelation 6:3-4
(3) famines, Matthew 24:7, Revelation 6:5-6
(4) pestilences (disease epidemics), Matthew 24:7, Revelation 6:7-8
(5) religious persecution (great tribulation), Matthew 24:9-13, 21-22, Revelation 6:9-11
(6) heavenly signs, Matthew 24:29, Revelation 6:12-17
(7) Day of the Lord, Matthew 24:30-31, Revelation 6:17 and chapters 8, 9, 16, 19.
It is very clear from the above that the "tribulation" and "Day of the Lord" represent two distinct periods of time, separated by the heavenly signs. Matthew 24:29 shows that the heavenly signs happen immediately after the tribulation, and Joel 2:31 says that the heavenly signs occur before the Day of the Lord. Could anything be more simple?
The tribulation period is Satanís wrath. He is angry because he knows he has a short time left, and he wants to undo faithful believers who keep the Eternalís commandments, those who are not taken to a place of safety, Revelation 12:7-17, 3:10.
The Day of the Lord is the LORDíS (Yahwehís) wrath, Revelation 6:17, during which seven trumpets of punishment are sounded, culminating in the seventh trumpet of seven last plagues, Revelation 8, 9, 15, 16, 19.
Notice that the elect are NOT gathered before the tribulation, but during the Day of the Lord, Matthew 24:29-31. Specifically, the righteous dead are resurrected at the seventh, or last trumpet, Revelation 11:15-18, I Corinthians 15:50-52, I Thessalonians 4:16-17. Prophetic time sequence laid out in Scripture allows no such thing as a "pre-tribulation rapture."
Even during the wrath of the Day of the Lord, true servants of the Almighty are not taken to Heaven. Revelation 7:1-10 describes 144,000 servants of God who are sealed in their foreheads, so they are protected during the wrath of God on the earth, sea, trees, etc. Now, if they were in Heaven, they would not have to be sealed for protection. See also Ezekiel 9.
It is during the "day of the LORD" that the feet of the LORD ó the Messiah ó will stand on the Mount of Olives, Zechariah 14:1, 4. No time is allowed in Biblical prophecy for a rapture to Heaven.
Lazarus and the Rich Man
Like a man sinking in quicksand, those who believe in going to Heaven will grasp at any straw or twig in a vain attempt to support their hopeless doctrine. Such is the classic example of the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man, found in Luke 16:19-31.
This account is used as a major argument to support the teaching that the "saved" go instantly, at death, to Heaven, while the "lost" are sent to hell fire to suffer indescribable agony for all eternity. This unbiblical teaching makes the Heavenly Father appear to be a cruel monster. Letís look at what this passage really means.
Verse 22 says, "And it came to pass, that the beggar [Lazarus] died, and was carried by the angels into Abrahamís bosom: the rich man died and was buried." It does not say Lazarus was taken to Heaven. Nor does it say he was taken immediately after he died. We know from other scriptures that the dead "sleep" in an unconscious state until the resurrection.
What is Abrahamís bosom? Being in oneís bosom is to have an intimate relationship with that individual. All true believers, Israelite or Gentile, upon conversion become "Abrahamís seed, [children] and heirs according to the promise" Galatians 3:29. Through the Messiah they become "children of Abraham" Galatians 3:7. At the resurrection, they inherit the same reward the Almighty promised to Abraham, along with Abraham. The promise that the Almighty made to Abraham was eternal life on this earth, Hebrews 9:15, Romans 4:13. Only at the first resurrection will the saints inherit this promise, I Corinthians 15:50-53.
To be in Abrahamís bosom is to have his love and protection, to share his blessings and inheritance. See Isaiah 40:11, John 1:18, Numbers 11:12. Not only will the resurrected saints be in Abrahamís bosom, but they will be in the bosom of the Almighty.
Lazarus was "carried by angels" into Abrahamís bosom. When? We know that angels will come down from Heaven to gather the saints at the last trumpet, Matthew 24:29-31. This is at the return of the Messiah at the resurrection, I Thessalonians 4:16-17.
The rich man died and was buried, Luke 16:22. Verse 23 does not say he was taken immediately to hell fire. Actually the word for "hell" in verse 23 does not refer to hell fire (gehenna) at all. It is the Greek word hades, the equivalent of the Hebrew sheol. Both mean "the grave." Danteís imaginary hell is a fiction that has been accepted by Catholics and Protestants alike. The rich man was in the same kind of "hell" that the Messiah was (Acts 2:31) ó the grave!
When did the rich man "lift up his eyes"? It was at the second resurrection, after the Millennium, Daniel 12:2, John 5:28-29, Revelation 20:5, 11-13. Since the dead, righteous or unrighteous, are unconscious and know not anything (Ecclesiastes 9:5, Job 14:21, Isaiah 63:16, Psalm 146:4), the rich man, in his inadequate understanding, was unaware of the lapse of time since he had died. The "flame" that tormented (gave mental anguish to) the rich man was the approaching gehenna fire, the "lake of fire" which is the "second death" Revelation 20:14-15. The rich man sees Lazarus in Abrahamís bosom, and the awful flame of fire which is about the destroy him forever. He is terrified and asks for a dip of water to cool his tongue. Not for a torrent of water to put out the advancing flame, which he knows cannot be put out.
Abraham reminds the rich man that during his lifetime he received good things while Lazarus got bad things (with little help from the rich man). Now the situation was reversed. Besides this, a great gulf or chasm separates Abraham and Lazarus from the rich man. That gulf was immortality. Spirit beings are not subject to corruption and death. At this time, Abraham and Lazarus were immortal sons of God. The rich man was resurrected to physical life. He was about to be burned up. It was too late for repentance. The die was cast.
In his last fleeting moments, when he knew he was doomed to die, the rich man remembered that he had five brothers that were as evil as he had been. Not knowing the time sequence, the rich man asks that Abraham send Lazarus to go and testify to them, lest they come to his place of torment. But Abraham knows better. If they wouldnít hear Moses and the prophets from the Bible, they wouldnít listen to one that had risen from the dead.
So the account ends. We know that the wicked will be burned into ashes, Hebrews 10:27, Matthew 13:30, 3:12, Malachi 4:1-3, Psalm 37:20, Revelation 20:14, Romans 6:23. Far from teaching about going to Heaven or hell fire at death, the account of Lazarus and the Rich Man substantiates the resurrection, eternal life for the righteous, and complete destruction of the wicked.
Miscellaneous Scriptures Often Mis-Interpreted
The "going to Heaven" concept is so ingrained in modern churchianity that many scriptures are wrongly used in support of this pre-conceived notion. Here are a few, taken from The New Naveís Topical Bible, article "Heaven," under the subheading "The Future Dwelling Place of the Righteous," with our replies:
(1) Matthew 3:12, "the garner." This word means barn, repository, granary. There is nothing to indicate that the garner is in Heaven.
(2) Ephesians 5:5, "the Kingdom of Christ and of God." We know that the kingdom will be on this earth, not in Heaven.
(3) John 14:2, "My Fatherís house." We have previously covered this. The verse does not say we are taken to Heaven.
(4) Hebrews 11:16, an Heavenly country. The country the faithful fathers looked forward to was an Heavenly country, the New Jerusalem, the New Heavens and New Earth, verse 10. God has prepared for them a city, verse 16. This city will be brought down out of Heaven to the New Earth, Revelation 21:1-2.
(5) Hebrews 4:9, Revelation 14:13, a Rest. The Sabbath is still to be kept by Godís people. It is a type of the Millennial rest, the Kingdom of God on the earth.
(6) II Corinthians 12:2,4, "paradise." Paul recounts a vision of the third Heaven (verse 1). This passage does not say anyone will go to Heaven. The apostle John went in vision to Heaven as he frequently reported in Revelation. II Corinthians 12 relates a vision, as does much of Revelation.
Other verses used to support the false going to Heaven idea are these:
(1) II Corinthians 5:1-2, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." At death, our soul (physical body) returns to the dust, but our spirit (the non-physical substance which allows us to think, plan and reason) returns to God in Heaven, Ecclesiastes 3:21, 12:7, I Corinthians 2:11. There is a "spirit in man," Job 32:8. But this spirit is not immortal. It cannot function apart from the body, Psalm 146:4. At the resurrection, the righteous dead will be raised and given a "house" or glorious eternal spiritual body with their spirit. They will be "clothed" with this "house" from Heaven. Notice! Their "house" is reserved in Heaven and comes from Heaven when the righteous are "born again" at the first resurrection. This verse does not support the "going to Heaven" concept.
(2) I Peter 1:4-5, "To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you . . . . ready to be revealed [given] in the last time." The glorious spiritual body of ours is reserved (kept safe, Matthew 6:19-21) in Heaven. This is part of what the Savior is preparing for us. We have to wait, some of us will wait in our graves, until He comes back with our glorious eternal inheritance, Colossians 3:4, II Thessalonians 1:7, I Thessalonians 4:16-17.
(3) Colossians 1:5,1 2, "For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven...the inheritance of the saints in light." This verse is similar to the above passages. This mortal shall put on immortality (from Heaven) at the resurrection. Our spirit bodies are reserved ó kept safe ó in Heaven.
(4) "Thou shalt have treasure in heaven," Mark 10:21, also "lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven," Matthew 6:19-20. See also Luke 12:33, 18:22. What is this "treasure" that true believers can lay up for themselves in Heaven? It is having oneís name written in the book of life in Heaven (Luke 10:20, Revelation 20:12, 15). This means that oneís eternal body is secure, reserved in Heaven.
(5) "Great is your reward in heaven," Matthew 5:12 and Luke 6:22-23. Those who suffer persecution for the Son of Manís sake have a great reward in Heaven. The Messiah is bringing back that reward ó eternal life ó at His return.
(6) Philippians 3:20-21, "For our conversation [citizenship] is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body." As with all the other above scriptures, this verse doesnít say we go to Heaven to join our eternal body. The truth is, the Savior will return at the resurrection with our glorious citizenship (reward, treasure, building of God, inheritance). We should look forward to that day!
(7) Hebrews 10:34, "knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance." Do I have to go to Heaven to claim this? No! Verse 37, "For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry." The Messiah will return from Heaven with our reward, if we are faithful and endure to the end.
(8) Hebrews 12:22-24, "But ye are come unto Mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant." How is it that true believers can come to the heavenly Jerusalem before the throne of the Almighty? We can come boldly via prayer through the Messiah, our High Priest, unto the throne of grace, unto the Heavenly Father, Hebrews 4:14-16, Ephesians 2:18, Hebrews 10:19-20, Ephesians 3:11-15. That is why I generally close my eyes when I pray, to concentrate on the Eternal in Heaven instead of this world, to envision the brilliant Creator, Revelation 1:13-16. Those who have the Holy Spirit have their names written in Heaven. Those righteous men of old are dead, unconscious in their graves. They are not in Heaven. But their spirit (the spirit of man) is in Heaven, gone back to the Creator who gave it, Ecclesiastes 12:7. The righteous dead are not in Heaven, but their kingdom is sure ó it cannot be moved or taken away, Hebrews 12:28.
(9) Revelation 5:3, "and no man in heaven, nor in earth, neither under the earth, was able to open the book, neither to look thereon." The word translated "man" means "no one." It is properly rendered "no one" in the Revised Standard Version, Modern Language, and New International Version.
(10) Revelation 7:9-17, the "great multitude." Here is described a vast multitude from all nations before the throne and the Lamb. They came out of great tribulation and have "white robes," demonstrating that they have repented of their sins and washed their garments clean in the blood of the Lamb. Are these saints in Heaven where Godís throne is? When does this happen? Lest we jump to false conclusions, we should observe the whole of Revelation. It is easy to see that Revelation is not a continuous chronology of events. There are insets that carry the history of the church, the beast, etc. Revelation 7 is an inset as well. Verses 1-8 describe the seal of protection put upon 144,000 Israelites, so they would not be hurt by the trumpet plagues of the Eternal described in Revelation 8 and after. The 144,000 are certainly not in Heaven, or they would not have to be protected from anything! Notice verse 9, "after this." It doesnít say how long after this. But verses 15-17 give an important clue. Compare these verses with Revelation 21, especially 21:2-4, 6-7, 22-24 and Revelation 22:1-5. We can see that Revelation 7:9-17 is not talking about saints being in Heaven. It is describing the glorious period of the New Heaven and New Earth, when the throne of God will be in the New Jerusalem which is coming down out of Heaven to the remade earth.
(11) In Revelation 14:1-5, the 144,000 are described as being on Mount Sion, singing a new song before the throne. This is undoubtedly another inset, reminding us of the future good fate of those who do not take the mark of the beast described in chapter 13. Verses 9-11 of Revelation 14 describe the fate of those who receive the mark of the beast.
(12) Revelation 6:9-11 describes those who died in the past martyrdom of the saints. Their souls cried out for vengeance. They were given white robes (symbols of righteousness). But they had to rest until their brethren would likewise be killed in the future great martyrdom. It is simple to demonstrate what kind of "souls" this is talking about. The Messiah poured out His soul (blood) unto death, Isaiah 53:12, i.e., He bled to death. Under the Old Testament sacrifices, the blood of the bullock was poured at the bottom of the altar, Leviticus 4:7. Like the blood of the righteous martyr Abel, the blood of the saints is said to cry out for vengeance, Genesis 4:10. The martyred saints are not in Heaven crying out to be avenged. They must continue to "rest" in their graves until after the future martyrdom. Then the Eternal will put an end to those responsible for the martyrdom of the saints and usher in His Kingdom on earth.
A Desolate Earth?
Seventh Day Adventists erroneously use Isaiah 24:6 to "prove" that the earth will be desolate during the Millennium, while the saints are in Heaven. This is another classic example of reading a preconceived notion into a passage of the Living Word. This is a dangerous thing to do.
Isaiah 26:21 nowhere says that every last soul on earth will be slain. The context before and after disproves any such idea.
Isaiah 11:1-12 and many other passages show that there will be a peaceful world after the restoration at the return of the Messiah. Acts 3:19-21 clearly shows that the restoration of all things will begin when our Savior returns from Heaven. He will destroy them which destroy the earth, Revelation 11:17-18. He will not destroy this earth for 1,000 years!
Jeremiah 4:23-27 does not say the whole earth will be desolate. In verse 23, the word "earth" is eretz, which often refers to the land of Israel. Verse 27 says "the whole land [eretz] shall be desolate; yet I will not make a full end." Again, we must look at all of the Bible and not tear portions out of context.
Jeremiah 25:29-33 does not say the Eternal will kill all human beings. It says there will be slain of the Eternal from one end of the earth to the other end. The wicked shall be slain, II Thessalonians 1:7-9, 2:8. But not those who have not known Him; not those who are not yet called. Again, false concepts often get in the way of Godís Truth. God will plead with all nations, and many will repent, Jeremiah 16:14-21, 23:3-6, Isaiah 25:7-9, 29:18-24.
As the days of Noah were, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Most of mankind will be warned. Many will repent. Much more than just eight souls will be left to restore the earth. Read the Eternalís promise in Genesis 8:20-22. Be assured that as He says, He will never again smite every living thing.
Ellen G. White, founder of the Seventh Day Adventist church, states in her book, The Great Controversy that "as the scapegoat was sent away into a land uninhabited, so Satan will be banished to the desolate earth, an uninhabited and dreary wilderness. The revelator foretells the banishment of Satan and the condition of chaos and desolation to which the earth is to be reduced, and he declares that this condition will exist for a thousand years."
Leviticus 16:20-22 describes the "scapegoat" portion of the Old Testament Day of Atonement ceremonies. Notice that Israel didnít go off to Heaven. The scapegoat was removed to an uninhabited place. Israel stayed where they were. Revelation 20:1-3 describes the spiritual fulfillment of the Day of Atonement: the binding of Satan for a thousand years in the bottomless pit. This abyss is not the whole earth, but in the depths of the earth. Scores of scriptures describe the netherworld, where Satan shall be bound. Notice Revelation 20:3, which shows that unless Satan were bound, he would be able to deceive the physical nations. Praise the Almighty! Our adversary will be restrained! If there were no people on the earth, Satan would not have to be chained!
Consequences of "Going to Heaven" Doctrine
The false "going to Heaven" concept is firmly rooted in many related false doctrines, such as the trinity, immortal soulism, the rapture, Millennium in Heaven, and last day prophecies which distort the true meaning of the times in which we live, as well as a false notion of the reward of the saved.
Rather than a "harmless error," the seriousness of the false "going to Heaven" doctrine struck home to me recently. I read a Seventh Day Adventist study on "Revelationís Glorious Rapture." The statement was made, "Suppose that a glorious being suddenly appeared in Jerusalem who claimed to be Christ and who fitted the description of Jesus in Revelation 1:13-17. Suppose that he preached warm beautiful Bible truths with power, called fire down from Heaven, healed the sick, helped stop wars, read minds, blessed children, etc. What would be your reaction?" The suggested answer was, "We should know at once that he was an imposter . . . . because Jesus at His coming makes a SKY APPEARANCE and not an EARTH APPEARANCE. He remains in the AIR while imposters appear on EARTH."
Seventh Day Adventists ignore or misinterpret the dozens of scriptures cited in this article. If their idea is true, then Matthew 24:24 would be meaningless. The faith of the elect is going to be severely tested. Yes, that means yours and mine! The deception of many has already happened. They are looking for the wrong "Christ" in the wrong place. A proper understanding of the reward of the saved is vital to our very salvation. An erroneous conception may result in some losing salvation itself. Truly, a little leaven leavens the whole lump, Galatians 5:9. Any false doctrine is dangerous, and we must, with the Eternalís help, eliminate all falsehood and error in our understanding of Him.
The consequences of the "going to Heaven" doctrine could be that some who hold this belief miss recognizing the returning Messiah and fight against Him. This false belief tunes one into Satanís wavelength.
If one believes the real Christ to be the Antichrist, then he will be fully brainwashed, because of Satanís great deception, to attempt to resist the conquering King of the Universe, as He arrives to establish His Kingdom on this earth.
Satan wanted to aspire to Godís throne in Heaven, Isaiah 14:12- 15, Ezekiel 28:12-19. He has been leading mankind these nearly 6,000 years to aspire to the same thing ó to go to Godís Heaven. Man was made to have dominion over all the creation of God, under God and His Son Jesus, of course, Psalm 8:6. But this rulership must be attained through the building of character, which takes time, in "this present evil world," Galatians 1:4. When this is accomplished, we can look forward to the "world to come," Hebrews 2:5, i.e., the 1000-year reign of Christ and His saints upon this physical earth. After that, the resurrected saints, made into immortal spirit beings, shall inherit the New Heaven and New Earth, Revelation 21:7. The fate of those who will not follow God and partake of the water of life is told in Revelation 21:8. This destiny is not an eternity in hell-fire, but the second death, which is oblivion for all eternity, ashes under the feet of the righteous, Malachi 4:1-3.
Isnít it strange that there is not one plain scripture stating "when we get to heaven," or "Iíll see you in heaven," or any such thing? There are no such scriptures because this is not the Truth.
Far from playing a harp in Heaven, we will be doing productive, creative and useful work for all eternity. We will dwell in the house of Yahweh forever, Psalm 23:6, if and only if we overcome. The choice is ours ó this very day and every day from now on. Choose life, Deuteronomy 30:19, that both you and your seed may live! W
NOTE: Another major false doctrine is that of the trinity. Please refer to Study Number 69, "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."
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