The hope of all the faithful Christian believers is to live forever with God the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the holy angels in the heavenly mansions. Many of the liturgical imagery inspired in portraits and in the composition of songs whose lyrics touch deep within the soul, conjure up scenes of the celestial splendor and unspeakable joy, but is that really what the Scriptures teach? As the old saying goes, "Let us speak where the Bible speaks and let us be silent where the Bible is silent." The following is a list of references for thoughtful prayer and reflection:
Colossians 1: 5a
Because of the hope which is laid up for you in heaven.
I Peter 1: 4
To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.
II Corinthians 5: 2b
For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven.
Hebrews 12: 23
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in
heaven. . .
NOTE: None of the preceding passages says that believers will go to live in heaven, but rather that heaven is the source or place of their citizenship and reward.
I Thessalonians 4: 16-17
For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with "them" in the clouds to meet the lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
NOTE: A couple of things should receive further consideration, namely, who are 'them' and verse seventeen doesn't say that 'we' shall go be with the Lord in heaven but rather, "we will always be with the Lord."
I Corinthians 15: 23
But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming.
Revelations 14: 1, 4
Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His Father's name written on their foreheads. These are the ones who were not defiled with women, for they are virgins. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.
Revelation 7:1a, 2a, 3-4
After these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds. Then I saw another angel ascending from the east (??) having the seal of the Living God, saying, "Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees until we have sealed the servants (prophets??; Revelation 22: 6, 8b-9a) of our God on their foreheads. And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
II Thessalonians 2: 1
Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him. . .
NOTE: Some believers think that God's people, the political, religious and national state of Israel is no longer a concern but rather Christ's Church; however, is that true?
Romans 11: 1, 5, 25-26a, 28-29
I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I am also an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. Even so then, at this present time there is a remnant according to grace. For I do not desire brethren, that you should be ignorant of this 'mystery,' lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles should come in. And so all Israel shall be saved. . . Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election, they are beloved for the sake of the fathers (Cp. Genesis 12: 3b; 22: 18; 26: 4; 28: 14). For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Hebrews 6:13-17, 18
For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could not swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, saying, "Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie. . .
Ephesians 3: 1, 3-4, 6
I, Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles-how that by revelation He made known to me the 'mystery' (as I have written briefly already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the 'mystery' of Christ) that the Gentiles should be fellow heirs, of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the gospel.
NOTE: Now that the aforementioned references clearly indicate that Israel is God's special concern and that along with the Gentile believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are heirs and partakers of the promises to Abraham, but exactly what does this look like?
II Corinthians 11: 2
For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy: For I have betrothed you to one husband that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.
Revelation 19: 7-9
"Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready." And to her was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.
NOTE: The final piece of this theological puzzle has to do with where the heirs of the 'Promise' or the Lord's bride will live for endless ages.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them (Cp. Isaiah 34: 4a; II Peter 3:10-11a, 12b).
Revelation 21: 1-3
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. . . Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.
9-10, 12, 14
Then one of the angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues came to me and talked with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the Lamb's wife." And he carried me away 'in the Spirit' to a great and high mountain, and showed me the great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God. Also she had a great high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
There are some believers in the body of Christ who believed the redeemed saints will enjoy the blissful, idyllic life and social as well as conjugal relationships in a restored and perfected Garden of Eden, which Adam and Eve forfeited (Cp. Genesis 1: 27-28; 3: 22-24), but such is not the case according to the words of Jesus:
Matthew 22: 29-30; Mark 12: 24-25
Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures or the power of God. "For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels [of God] in heaven.
Revelation 5: 10b
And we [they??] shall reign on the earth.
Regardless of the many disapproving "DISPENSATIONAL" viewpoints and theological hand wringing that this study may provoke among some of the more religiously conservative, the Apostle Peter seems to sum up our hope the best in II Peter 3: 13:
Nevertheless, we according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.
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