Find audio version here: https://audioboom.com/posts/7041493-part-1-heaven-or-earth-are-we-going-up-or-is-god-moving-in
The gospel is often explained as “Jesus died for your sins, and upon believing, you will go to heaven”, but could there be more?
This post will not be seeking to explain the gospel i.e. the good news of the kingdom. Although this is of great importance and worthy of much discussion, will not be discussed until later in the future as the Lord permits. This teaching will also not be about the mechanisms to salvation in so far as it relates to becoming a Christian or a child of God”, nonetheless some parts of it as far as it relates to the faith of Abraham will be discussed.
This post will seek to challenge the belief and teaching that faithful believers have their destination or in other words, their eternal life in heaven. It will seek to prove from scripture that, the eternal destiny of mankind is on earth rather than in Heaven. For He says “…behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But gladness and a leap for joy they shall find in her. I shall rejoice over Jerusalem and rejoice over my people. The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her,…” Isaiah 65:17-19 (LXX). He also says in another place “…The righteous shall inherit the land, and dwell in it forever…” Psalm 37:29
It has to be stressed however that heaven is an actual and real place thoroughly mentioned in scripture like in Psalm 33:13 “the Lord looks from Heaven; He sees all the sons of men” and again in Psalm 103:19 “the Lord had established His throne in heaven and his kingdom rules over all”. There is no doubt over Heaven’s existence but this teaching merely addresses the belief that faithful believers end up in heaven.
What does the bible have to say about the destiny of man? In Genesis 2:8-9 it says “The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Also in v15-17 “then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”
In Rev 2:7 “The one having an ear, listen to what the Breath is saying to the assemblies: ‘To the one being victorious, I will give to him to eat from the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Garden of God.’” Then in ch22:14 “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.”
From book end to book end we see God’s purpose i.e. to have man established with access to the tree of life in His elaborate paradise (greek word ‘paradiso’ which means garden or elaborate park. Same word used in Genesis in the greek old testament). More of this in…. Part 3 Common objection.
The question which now remains is whether God’s plan inbetween Genesis and Revelation has been a mystery that is only now being revealed as Heaven. Or perhaps there are various destinations for faithful believers, one group to heaven and another on earth, as some teach. Amidst all this, what does God’s word actually say? What did the prophets and apostles believe and teach?
To answer this question, I have broken this teaching into three sub-heading. 1. The inheritance and the promises, 2. The restoration/redemption of the creation, and 3. The resurrection of the dead.
1. The Inheritance and the promises
We turn first to Abraham in Genesis 13:14-15. It reads… “And the Lord said to Abram, after Lot had separated from him: “Lift your eyes now and look … for all the land which you see I give to you and your seed forever. And I will make your seed as the dust of the earth; …”. Also in Genesis 17: 7-8 “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, … Also I give to you and your seed after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession;…”
Notice also that the promises being made to Abraham are without conditions. Meaning Abraham was not to do something in order for God to keep His end of the promise.
God later makes the same promise to Abraham’s son Isaac (who is Abraham’s seed) in Genesis 26:2-5 “Then the Lord appeared to [Isaac] and said: “.. Dwell in this land, and I will be with you and bless you; for to you and your seed I give all these lands, and I will perform the oath which I swore to Abraham your father. And I will make your seed multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your seed all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed;…”
Take note of two things here, firstly, the promise here was also without conditions. Secondly, the words in verse 4 “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed”.
Following on from there, God makes the same promise to Jacob (another qualifying as Abraham’s seed, as well as the seed of Isaac). Genesis 28:13-14 “And behold, the Lord stood … and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your seed. Also your seed shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed”. Here again another unconditional promise to which nothing will stop God from fulfilling it. Note also the last phrase, “in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed”.
Did God continue to make such promises? In Exodus 6:2-8 it reads…“And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty… I have also established my covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage… I have remembered my covenant. Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians … I will take you as my people, and I will be your God. … And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord”
Then also in Leviticus 18:1-5 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt… you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances. You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them: I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them: I am the Lord”
Note this time the conditions laid on the children of Israel. They are to live by the law in order for them to remain in the Land of Canaan. Nonetheless, God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is established and cannot be nullified even if Israel as a nation were to break the conditions.
Fast forwarding the story, we come to King David after God had long settled the Israelites in Canaan. 2 Samuel 7:10-16 – “…I will appoint a place for My people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them anymore, as previously, …“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, … And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”
Is it not odd that God is promising to plant Israel in a place of their own not to be moved anymore? Is it also odd that in the day God does it, Israel will no longer be oppressed by the sons of wickedness? Is this heaven or on the earth?
Let’s briefly recall the promise to Abraham in Genesis 17: 7-8 “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your seed after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, … Also I give to you and your seed after you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting possession;…”
Psalm 89:3-4 “I have made a covenant with My chosen, I have sworn to My servant David: ‘Your seed I will establish forever, And build up your throne to all generations”. v34-37 “My covenant I will not break, Nor alter the word that has gone out of My lips. Once I have sworn by My holiness; I will not lie to David: His seed shall endure forever, And his throne as the sun before Me; It shall be established forever like the moon, Even like the faithful witness in the sky.”
The promises of God cannot be nullified and is well written in Hebrew 6:17-18 that God has shown the immutability of His promises by swearing under oath and thus it is impossible for God to lie. Here’s the question for us now ‘Did Abraham, Jacob, Isaac, and David receive the promises?’
Acts 7:2-5 it reads “Brethren and fathers, listen: The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him, ‘Get out of your country and from your relatives, and come to a land that I will show you.’ … And from there, when his father was dead, He moved him to this land in which you now dwell. And God gave him no inheritance in it, not even enough to set his foot on. But even when Abraham had no child, He promised to give it to him for a possession, and to his seed after him… Stephen here tells us that Abraham did not receive the inheritance.
Also in Hebrews 11:13-14 “These all (i.e. those mentioned earlier in the chapter, including Abraham) died according to “faith,” not having received the promises, but observing them far ahead, and being persuaded and embracing [them], also acknowledged that they were aliens and foreigners in the Land. For those saying such things demonstrate that they are yearning for the [promised] homeland”. v39 also reads “Yet all these documented [to have been] “by faith,” did not attain the promise, God having provided in advance that better thing for us, so that they would not be made complete without us.”
What then, is God a liar? And If not, how does God plan to fulfil these promises? After all, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and all who served God faithfully are all dead. The answer lies in the resurrection according to Paul in his defense to King Agrippa. Acts 26:6-8, Pauls says “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?
Before diving further into the resurrection, let’s recall the three subheadings from the beginning. They were 1. The inheritance and the promises, 2. The restoration/redemption of the creation, and 3. The resurrection of the dead. At this point we will explore 2. The restoration/redemption of the creation and then I will circle back to the resurrection.
2. The restoration/redemption of the creation.
Having spent about 3 years before his death, and another 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus preached and taught his Disciples on the Kingdom of God, instructing them to wait until endowed with power to begin their mission. The mission to make disciples of all nations through the preaching of the Kingdom of God. So what was first preached after the power had come? Was it “Jesus died for your sins and in believing, you will go to heaven?” NO it was not.
Peter delivered the first sermon in Acts 2, quoting from Psalm 16 to prove that Jesus’ resurrection had been prophesied by David because David knew that God had sworn an oath to him that He would raise up one of his seed to sit on David’s throne and reign over Israel forever. The Psalm Peter quoted speaks of Jesus’ resurrection as well as His Land inheritance. He quotes from Psalm 16:5-11 LXX “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: you are he that restores my inheritance to me. The [measured borders] have fallen to me in the best places, yes, I have a most excellent heritage. I will bless the Lord who has instructed me; …I foresaw the Lord always before my face; for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved. Therefore my heart rejoiced and my tongue exulted; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope: because you will not leave my soul in hades, neither will you suffer your Holy One to see corruption. You have made known to me the ways of life; you will fill me with joy with your countenance: at your right hand there are delights forever.” Notice that this psalm is written in the first person. Peter notes this as the Christ speaking through David when he wrote it. It is a Psalm that draws from another psalm i.e. Psalm 2: 1-12 “Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Christ… He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; …And distress them in His deep displeasure:… Yet I have set My King On My holy hill of Zion.” “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me,‘You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall shepherd them with a rod of iron;…”
Peter’s audience were Jews who were familiar with all these things. They knew the Psalms very well especially Psalm 2 which was one of the inspired songs of David in the Jewish Hymnal, frequently sung in the synagogues. Therefore, they would automatically assume from Peter’s applying it to Jesus Christ that He was the Messiah who will receive the inheritance – the Land as an everlasting possession.
You may be asking yourself, what has this to do with restoration or maybe you are wondering what this all means. Well we turn to Peter’s second sermon where he makes it clearer. Acts 3:19-21 “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, [in order that] times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before (this is a reference to his first preaching), whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began”. Note the last phrase again “whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things” these times of restoration do not take place until the time of Jesus’ return. And according to Peter, the times of restoration have been prophesied previously by all the prophets since creation. This includes Abraham whom God calls a prophet in Genesis 20:7.
let’s now consider what one of these prophets spoke concerning the restoration of creation. Isaiah 35:1-7 “The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them, and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice … They shall see the glory of the LORD, The Excellency of our God. Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are fearful-hearted, “Be strong, and do not fear! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God; He will come and save you. Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the lame shall leap like a deer, And the tongue of the dumb sing. For waters shall burst forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. The parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water; In the habitation of jackals, where each lay, There shall be grass with reeds and rushes.”
Peter’s Jewish hearers fully expected the literal fulfillment of such prophecies, and Peter gave them absolutely no reason to doubt them. He simply connected such promises of restoration with the return of Jesus Christ.
Peter was not the only Apostle who preached this. Romans 8:16-25, “The same Breath jointly proclaims along with our breath that we are the children of God. And if [we are] children, [we are] also inheritors, indeed [we are] God’s inheritors and Jesus Christ’s co-inheritors, even if we jointly suffer so that we may also be jointly glorified. For I consider that the sufferings of the present appointment are not comparable to the glory about to be revealed unto us. For the anticipation of the creation is awaiting the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not voluntarily, but through the One who subjected it in hope, because the same creation shall be released from the slavery of corruption unto the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we have observed that all creation groans in unison, and travails in unison, until now. Yet not only this, but we ourselves, having the first-fruits of the Breath, we also groan in ourselves awaiting the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were rescued in this hope. Yet, if hope is seen it is not hope. For if someone [already] sees, why is he also hoping? But if we are hoping for what we do not [yet] see, we await it through endurance.”
According to Paul the hope we are saved in fall within two things. 1. The redemption of creation and 2. The redemption and glorification of our bodies because we are united with Christ, in his death, in his resurrection and in his glory all by virtue of our baptism into Christ (see Romans 6:1-4, Galatians 3:26-29 and Colossians 2:11-15 for explanation). I shall be doing a teaching on baptism at a later time but for now…
Let’s circle back to the resurrection, the third sub-heading. We have thus far looked into subheading 1. The inheritance and the promises (looking at all God has promised to the Abraham and his seed after him), We have also discussed subheading 2. The restoration and redemption of the creation and our bodies and now we turn to…
3. The resurrection of the dead
The resurrection as a topic is quite broad and requires another teaching of its own. It has been taught and believed going as far back as Abraham, Who believed God was able to raise up Isaac again when he sought to offer him up (see Hebrews 11:19). Also others to name a few, like Job, David, Mary the mother of the Lord, and Martha who believed Jesus was the Christ, the son of God when he testified that he was the resurrection and the life (see John 11:21-27).
Jesus on many occasions taught concerning himself, explaining that he had the power to raise the dead, and that power and authority was given to him by the father. He said in John 5:25-29 “Truly, truly, I tell you that an hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those hearing shall live. …Do not marvel at this, because an hour is coming in which all those in the graves shall hear His voice and they will come out – those having done good into resurrection of life, but those practicing what is detestable into resurrection of condemnation”.
Paul also speaking of the resurrection before Felix states in Acts 24:14-16 “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets. I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust. This being so, I myself always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men.”
I thus find it necessary at this time to address the following question. How does one partake in the inheritance, the restoration and the redemption of the whole creation as well as our bodies, and consequently the resurrection of the just? More specifically, how were the Jews who were natural descendants of Abraham to be saved.
In Acts 26:6-8 previously mentioned, Paul makes an important observation. It reads, “My manner of life from my youth, which was spent from the beginning among my own nation at Jerusalem, all the Jews know. They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee. And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made by God to our fathers. To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain. For this hope’s sake, King Agrippa, I am accused by the Jews. Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?
The phrase under consideration is “To this promise our twelve tribes, earnestly serving God night and day, hope to attain”.
The twelve tribes’ desire in their pursuit of God, was to attain to the inheritance and the resurrection. They were to do this by faith and not by law. Paul gives us an extensive explanation of the Abrahamic Covenant (of faith) in contrast to the Mosaic Covenant (of law) for the permanent “inheritance” comes only through the Abrahamic Covenant. The temporary and conditional inheritance Israel received under the Law could not undermine the unconditional “promise” God gave personally to Abraham and his seed, even though most of Israel would fail to receive the Abrahamic inheritance because of their stubborn clinging to the Law. Galatians 3:6-29…
“In the same way Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto righteousness for him, understand accordingly that those of faith, these are the sons of Abraham. Yet the Scripture, having foreseen that God is justifying the nations by faith, has previously announced the message to Abraham that “in you all nations shall be blessed.” Consequently, it is those of faith who are blessed with faithful Abraham. For, all who partake of works of law are under a curse. For the Scripture says, “Accursed are all who do not persevere in all things written in the book of the law to do them.” But, it is obvious that no one is justified by law because, “The just shall live by faith.” The law is not of faith, but [only] the “Man doing them [all] shall have life through them.” Christ has ransomed us from the curse of the law, having become accursed for us, (for it is written, “accursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), so that “the blessing of Abraham” may come unto the nations through Christ Jesus, that through faith we may receive the promise of the Spirit. … Likewise, the promises were given to Abraham and his “Seed.” It does not say “seeds” as in the plural, but in the singular, “and to your Seed,” who is Christ. Also, I say this: The law, which came four hundred thirty years later, cannot circumvent the covenant that was previously certified unto Christ under God. Because, if the inheritance comes through law, then it is no longer by a promise. But, [it was] through a promise that God favored Abraham. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the “Seed” should come who was promised, … Then, is the law in conflict with the promises of God? May it never be! For, if a law could have been capable of giving life, righteousness would have come through law. But the Scripture has confined all under sin, so that the promise of faith of Jesus Christ may be bestowed upon the believers. But, before the faith was to come, we were supervised under law, being kept in protective custody for the faith about to be revealed. Therefore, the law came as our guardian unto Christ, so that through faith we might be justified. But, once the faith came, we are no longer under a guardian. For you are all the sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus. For, all of you who have been [baptised] unto Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither servant nor free man; there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.
This is a rather long passage but worthy of reading. In summary Paul notes that the promise of the land can only be earned through faith. Abraham received it by faith and not law, therefore if we are to partake in the same promise, it has to be through faith. The only issue here is that the promise was only made to Abraham and his seed – singular not seeds. Thus it was made to Abraham and Christ. The Jews who were natural heirs to Abraham were to be kept under guard by the law until Christ had come. Does this mean only Jews can partake of the inheritance? No because Paul also notes that the seed of Abraham are those who have untrusted themselves and been baptised into the one seed (who is Christ) have been thus clothed with Christ and are considered as Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promises. Furthermore in Romans 4:13-18 it reads, “[the fulfillment of the promise is] from trust, according to grace, to confirm the promise to all the “seed,” not only to those from the Law (i.e. the Jews), but also to those from the trust of Abraham, who is the father of all of us. Accordingly it has been written that, “I have made you the father of many nations.”
That is why Paul is able to say back in Galatians 3:26 “For, all of you who have been immersed unto Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither servant nor free man; there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise”.
It is crucial to understand that the inheritance is not in heaven but on earth. There is much more to share at this time particularly from the prophet Isaiah. I will be writing another post mainly dedicated to the book of Isaiah, on the topic ‘Canaan and the redemption of Jerusalem as the bride of the Lord and mother of us all who are of Abraham’s faith (see Galatians 4:21-31)’. Also included in that teaching is the extent of Christ’ rule and its extent with Jerusalem being the focal location.
What is the conclusion then? God has promised to give as inheritance the land of Canaan, to Abraham and his seed including Isaac, Jacob, David, and more importantly Jesus Christ. Praise be to God who in his infinite wisdom, has grafted in the Gentiles also through faith in the Son of God. God has also revealed time and time again his intention to restore the creation. All this he has sworn and shown through his power in raising the Christ to life in the flesh, not only to inherit the land and the nations, but also to rule over the nations as pointed out by Peter in his preaching.
Revelation 21:3-4 says this “And I heard a loud voice from the sky saying: “Look! The tent of God is with men; and He will dwell with them; and they will be His people; and God Himself will be with them – their God. And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; nor will there be any more pain, because the former things have passed away”
So Heaven or Earth, are we going up or is God moving in?
Find audio version here: https://audioboom.com/posts/7041493-part-1-heaven-or-earth-are-we-going-up-or-is-god-moving-in