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The Judaic-Christian Heaven

 

A few years ago I had the privilege of a visit from some long-time friends from Japan. We have a lot of common values but one very large difference: They are Buddhists. Perhaps not avid Buddhists, but committed Buddhists nevertheless.

During their visit they often spoke of relatives whom I had known but who have since died. Whenever they spoke of these relatives they inevitably referred to them as being in heaven. And each time that reference was made, I thought, "They arenít really in heaven. They are awaiting their resurrection as described in Revelation 20."

Verse 4 describes the resurrection and thousand-year reign of the Saints with Christ.

(Rev 20:5 CJB) (The rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were over.) This is the first resurrection.

Today, I want to discuss the subject of Heaven, who has gone there, who has not, and what the Bible has to say about Heaven.

Who has gone to heaven? Surely such favored Saints as King David and Moses are there, arenít they? Letís look at the words of Christ to find the answer.

(John 3:13-15 NKJV) "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. {14} "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, {15} "that whoever believes [i.e. has faith] in Him should not perish but have eternal life.

No, in the words of Christ, no one, not even King David or Moses has ever ascended to heaven.

Some claim that Enoch never died so he must be in heaven. Letís read of it in Heb 11.

(Heb 11:5 NKJV) By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, "and was not found, because God had taken him"; for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

Verse 13 These all [referring to Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah] died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

Verse 13 makes it clear that even Enoch died. However, as we see in verse 5, God took him away before he died.

In Acts 2, Paul agreed with Christ and went on to explain that only Christ has ascended to heaven.

(Acts 2:29-35 NKJV) "Men and brethren, let me speak freely to you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. {30} "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, {31} "he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades [G86, the grave or realm of the dead], nor did His flesh see corruption [decay]. {32} "This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. {33} "Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. {34} "For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: 'The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, {35} Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."'

In verses 34-35, Paul is quoting Psalms 110. Letís turn to it.

(Psa 110:1 NKJV) The LORD said to my Lord, "Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool."

The word LORD is referring to God the Father (Yahweh). The other word Lord is referring to Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew. What could be plainer? Only Jesus Christ, Yeshua ha Mashiach in Hebrew, has ascended to heaven.

Stephen, addressing the Sanhedrin, makes the same claim in Acts 7.

(Acts 7:55-56 NKJV) But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, {56} and said, "Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!"

His observation and testimonial was rewarded with death.

Righteous Job knew that he would not be taken to heaven at his death. He knew he must wait for his resurrection which would follow the tribulations of Rev 6 and 7 and Godís call to him in the grave.

(Job 14:12-15 NKJV) So man lies down and does not rise. Till the heavens are no more, They will not awake Nor be roused from their sleep. {13} "Oh, that You would hide me in the grave, That You would conceal me until Your wrath is past, That You would appoint me a set time, and remember me! {14} If a man dies, shall he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait, Till my change comes. {15} You shall call, and I will answer You; You shall desire the work of Your hands.

Peter also realized that we will not be immediately resurrected. However, our memory will be reserved in heaven until our salvation which will follow in the end days.

(1 Pet 1:3-5 NKJV) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, {4} to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, {5} who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

No, only Christ has ascended to heaven. Christ will descend from heaven when He returns, resurrect those who have overcome their sins and been judged worthy, and make them pillars in His temple which will be on earth. The Heavenly Jerusalem will descend from heaven and come to earth. [Heb 12:22]

(Rev 3:12 NKJV) "He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.

Notice that those worthy to become permanent pillars in the Eternalís temple will not only be resurrected but will be given the name of the Eternal.

Paul describes our resurrection in First Thessalonians.

(1 Th 4:13-17 NKJV) But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. {14} For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. {15} For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. {16} 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. {17} 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.

This is what is known as the first resurrection.

Now, some would say that if we meet the Lord in the air and we shall always be with Him, that we obviously will not return to earth with the Lord. Is that true? How do we know? Letís look at a few scriptures which prove we will be on earth.

(Zec 14:4 NKJV) And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. . . . .

We see from verse four that Christ will return to earth at the Mount of Olives, which is on the east side of Jerusalem. In fact so many Jews have been aware of this scripture that the Mount of Olives is crowded with the Jewish graves of those who want to be the first to be resurrected and greet the Messiah.

What will be one of the first duties the returned Christ will perform?

(Mat 25:31-32 NKJV) "When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. {32} "All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats.

He must be on earth to be able to sit on his throne and judge all the nations gathered before Him. He obviously wonít be in heaven.

(Rev 2:26-27 NKJV) "And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations; {27} 'He shall rule them with a rod of iron; They shall be dashed to pieces like the potter's vessels'; as I also have received from My Father;

Those who have overcome their sins and have kept Christís works until the end will be given power over the nations.

(Rev 5:10 NKJV) And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth."

They shall be kings and priests. To have power over the nations, they will have to reside on earth, not in heaven.

(Zec 14:8-9 NKJV) And in that day it shall be That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. {9} And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be; "The LORD is one," And His name one.

Many interpret the living waters to the outspreading of the holy spirit to all the world which will then have only one god, the Creator God.

(Isa 2:2 NKJV) Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the Lord's house Shall be established on the top of the mountains, And shall be exalted above the hills; And all nations shall flow to it.

The word "mountain" is often interpreted as "government." Letís continue reading at verse 3 .

(Isa 2:3-5 NKJV) Many people shall come and say, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths." For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. {4} He shall judge between the nations, And rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, Neither shall they learn war anymore. {5} O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the LORD.

Who is the house of Jacob? It is not just the Jews, sons of Judah. It includes all the children of Jacob, especially the sons of Joseph. Again, the word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem, not from heaven, though our Holy Father in heaven will direct our Lord in Jerusalem. How do we know the sons of Joseph will be principal participants in walking in the light of the LORD?

I want to answer that question by reading the 37th chapter of Ezekiel which is the story of the resurrection of the Israeli dead; not just the Jews from the tribe of Judah, but the whole house of Jacob (i.e. Israel). As I read this chapter, ask yourself, "Could this be accomplished in heaven?"

(Ezek 37 NKJV) The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. {2} Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry. {3} And He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" So I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." {4} Again He said to me, "Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, 'O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! {5} 'Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: "Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. {6} "I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD."' " {7} So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to bone. {8} Indeed, as I looked, the sinews and the flesh came upon them, and the skin covered them over; but there was no breath in them. {9} Also He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may live."' " {10} So I prophesied as He commanded me, and breath came into them, and they lived, and stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army. {11} Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel. They indeed say, 'Our bones are dry, our hope is lost, and we ourselves are cut off!' [Cut off from Christ] {12} "Therefore prophesy and say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Behold, O My people, I will open your graves and cause you to come up from your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel. {13} "Then you shall know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up from your graves. {14} "I will put My Spirit in you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I, the LORD, have spoken it and performed it," says the LORD.'" {15} Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying, {16} "As for you, son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: 'For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.' Then take another stick and write on it, 'For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.' {17} "Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand. {18} "And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, 'Will you not show us what you mean by these?'; {19} "say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."' {20} "And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes. {21} "Then say to them, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; {22} "and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again. {23} "They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God. {24} "David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. {25} "Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever. {26} "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore. {27} "My tabernacle also shall be with them; indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people. {28} "The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore."' "

No mention of going to heaven, is there? Only a return of resurrected Israelites to Israel. Verse 16 refers to Judah, Joseph, and Ephraim. Who and where are these tribes in these latter days? Considerable research is currently being conducted to determine their whereabouts (see http://www.Britam.org). Many agree with these researchers that Judah is modern day Israel, and that descendants of Joseph migrated first to Britain and then to North America, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

We mentioned that pagan religions have their own theories about heaven. What do these pagan religions call heaven? If you research the word "heaven", you will find many pagan theories. The better known among them include the following names for heaven:

Elysium is the heaven of Greek mythology.

Valhalla was the heaven of the Germanic peoples who lived between the Caspian Sea on the east to as far west as Iceland prior to the areaís conversion to Roman Christianity in the 4th century.

Nirvana is the heaven of Buddhism and Hinduism. It is described as a state of the dead where they experience extinction of all desires.

Islam emphatically describes many forms of heavens (at least eight of them with various status/classes) with plenty of earthly greedís and lusting/erotic pleasures which not many human beings (made of soil) can refuse to get. Muslims devoutly pray at least five times (some pray even ten times) a day, visit Mecca and fawns Pirs and Darbishes (Saints) just to get the ultimate ticket for those lustful happinesses of heavens

But what does the Bible teach about heaven? We should know by now that heaven is not the reward of the Saints, those whom God has judged and chosen. Our website contains several sermons which address this matter. Refer to our sermons The Other Side of Life and Death's True Destiny. Letís now examine the Bibleís references to Heaven so we can understand what the word implies.

The first use of the word "heaven" is found in the first chapter of Genesis.

(Gen 1:6-10 NKJV) Then God said, "Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters." {7} Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. {8} And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day. {9} Then God said, "Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear"; and it was so. {10} And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good.

Verses 6 through 8 describe what was created the second day. Verses 9 and 10 explain how the second day creation applied to the third day of creation. To understand the meaning, we must define several words:

Firmament: Raqiya, H7439, an expanse, i.e. the firmament or (apparently) visible arch of the sky. What is this arch of the sky? Many interpret this as the location of heaven. But is that accurate? From our vantage, the heavens we see are almost totally composed of stars of the Milky Wayís main spiral disk. That is more in line with what cosmology describes as the formation of the stars of the Milky Wayís spiral, including our own sun and its planets.

Waters: H4325. mayim, mah'-yim; dual of a prim. noun (but used in a sing. sense); water; fig. juice; by euphemism, urine, semen. The word "water" obviously includes many types of liquid. We know from verse nine that what we know as liquid water was separated from dry land in the third day. Verse 6 tells us that the sky separated the waters from the waters. What could that mean? It had to mean that the substance described as water but located in the sky at that time was different from what we know as water found on the earth. First came the heavens, then came the earth. My impression is that the heavenly waters were and are the ethereal space between heavenly bodies.

From Strongís Dictionary: Heaven: 8064. shamayim, shaw-mah'-yim; dual of an unused sing. shameh, shaw-meh'; from an unused root meaning to be lofty; the sky (alluding to the visible arch in which the clouds move, as well as to the higher ether where the celestial bodies revolve):--air, X astrologer, heaven (-s).

Notice, the word "heaven" is not described as the residence of God.

Now letís look at some scriptural descriptions of heaven as the residence of God.

(Deu 26:15 NKJV) 'Look down from Your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless Your people Israel and the land which You have given us, just as You swore to our fathers, "a land flowing with milk and honey."'

(1 Ki 8:30 NKJV) "And may You hear the supplication of Your servant and of Your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. Hear in heaven Your dwelling place; and when You hear, forgive.

These Old Testament references use the same reference and description for the word translated "heaven" as we found in Genesis 1. The reason is that the Hebrew does not have a word for "universe" and so does not draw a word distinction between heavenly bodies of the universe and the abode of God. The term "heaven and earth" is therefore often used instead of "universe" to satisfy this deficiency. We should keep this in mind as we continue through this study of Heaven.

(1 Chr 16:31 NKJV) Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad; And let them say among the nations, "The LORD reigns."

This verse may imply that the heavenly host as well as the entire universe will rejoice.

(Job 22:12-14 NKJV) "Is not God in the height of heaven? And see the highest stars, how lofty they are! {13} And you say, 'What does God know? Can He judge through the deep darkness? {14} Thick clouds cover Him, so that He cannot see, And He walks above the circle of heaven.'

Jobís understanding is that God lives in the highest heaven. Judaic understanding is that there are seven heavens and that God dwells in the seventh or highest heaven.

(Job 26:7 NKJV) He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.

(Psa 48:1-2 NKJV) Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised In the city of our God, In His holy mountain. {2} Beautiful in elevation, The joy of the whole earth, Is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, The city of the great King.

These verses imply that Godís Heaven is located in the north. It also reveals that Job had known for a long time that there is nothing supporting the earth. Is it possible that Job even knew that the earth orbits the sun, thereby balancing the physical forces supporting it in space?

(Psa 102:19 NKJV) For He looked down from the height of His sanctuary; From heaven the LORD viewed the earth,

This verse repeats the understanding that Godís sanctuary is in the heights of the heavens.

(Eccl 3:21 NKJV) Who knows the spirit of the sons of men, which goes upward, and the spirit of the animal, which goes down to the earth?

This is a very interesting and informative scripture. We see a major distinction between animals and mankind. The spirit of mankind goes up to God, to be kept by Him for judgment, but the spirit of animals simply goes down into the ground with the rest of the carcass. Again, a reinforcement of the knowledge that Godís throne is up in the heavens.

Here are four additional verses which mention or describe the existence and location of heaven:

(Isa 66:1-2 NKJV) Thus says the LORD: "Heaven is My throne, And earth is My footstool. Where is the house that you will build Me? And where is the place of My rest? {2} For all those things My hand has made, And all those things exist," Says the LORD. "But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word.

Letís try to explain this allegory:

[The heaven is my throne] Here he is represented as having his seat or throne there. He speaks as a king. Heaven is the place where he holds his court; from where he dispenses his commands; and from where he surveys all his works. The idea here is, that as God dwelt in the vast and distant heavens, no house that could be built on earth could be magnificent enough to be his abode.

[The earth is my footstool] A footstool is that which is placed under the feet when we sit. The idea here is, that God was so glorious that even the earth itself could be regarded only as his footstool. It is probable that the Savior had this passage in his eye or mind in his declaration in the sermon on the mount, 'Swear not at all; neither by heaven, for it is God's throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool' (Matt 5:34-35).

[Where is the house that you will build Me?] What house can you build that will be an appropriate dwelling for him who fills heaven and earth? The same idea, substantially, was expressed by Solomon when he dedicated the temple: 'But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven, and heaven of heavens cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!' (1 Kings 8:27.) Substantially the same thought is found in the address of Paul at Athens: 'God, that made the world, and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwells not in temples made with hands' (Acts 17:24).

(Mat 6:19-20 NKJV) "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; {20} "but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

That is, have provision made for your eternal felicity. Do not exhaust your strength and spend your days in providing for the life here, but let your chief anxiety be to be prepared for eternity. It is to be heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away, 1 Peter 1:4.

(2 Cor 5:1-4 NKJV) For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. {2} For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, {3} if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. {4} For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life.

(Rev 12:7-10 NKJV) And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, {8} but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. {9} So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. {10} Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down.

These verses describe the events when Satan will finally be forcefully expelled from heaven and placed on the earth. No longer would every sin of Godís elect be put before the Eternalís nose.

 

In conclusion, despite the claims of pagan religions, heaven is not the place where everyone will go following death. As we have seen, the Bible does not say exactly where heaven is. It is undoubtedly a spiritual entity, as opposed to a physical entity which we could probably see. It seems to be located in the north parts.

What is important is that everyone will die at some time, then wait in their graves until Christ calls on them to arise. That time will be at Christís coming for the Saints and at the end of the millennium for those who have never had a chance to learn Christís ways of life. The time of the resurrection for the rest of the Israelites, as described in Ezekiel 37, is not disclosed but inasmuch as David will be their king, my guess is that it will occur following or during the millennium.

 

 

Sermon given by Wayne Bedwell

2 November 2013

 

 

Copyright 2013, Wayne Bedwell

 

 

 

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