Church of God, New World Ministries

If You Died Today, Would You Go To Heaven?

You've always heard that you'll go to heaven if you're "saved." And most have assumed that their loved ones have already "gone to heaven" when they died. But what does the Bible say? Is heaven really the "reward of the saved?"

Why, if the righteous go to heaven, did the Apostle John write: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven”-- referring to Jesus Christ Himself (John 3:13)?

If the "saved" go to heaven when they die, why did Peter say that King David, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), "is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us unto this day… For David is NOT ascended into the heavens" (Acts 2: 29, 34)?

Yes, why? What a paradox! Millions today believe the "saved" go to heaven, yet David didn't! And if the saved go to heaven when they die, what need is there for a resurrection from the dead? Why a resurrection if they have already "gone to their reward"?

Don't you think it is about time these puzzling yet vitally Important questions are answered?

Believe it or not, a belief in a heaven beyond the grave is not limited to professing Christians. People from around the world have always believed in some kind of afterlife--. some type of "reward" after death.

The eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica declares there is "a bewildering variety in the views of the future life and the the world held by different peoples. The scene of the future life may be thought of on earth, in some distant part of it, or above the earth-- in the sky, sun. moon or stars, or beneath the earth. The abodes of bliss and the places for torment may be distinguished, or one last dwelling-place may be affirmed for all the dead. Sometimes the good find their abiding home with the gods; sometimes a number of heavens of varying degrees of bles- sedness is recognized" (vol. 9, p. 760).

Mohammedans believe in a heaven prepared for the blessed, the professors of the” true religion," followers of Mohammed. In paradise, they believe they shall enjoy perpetual light and all heavenly pleasures. Their belief includes eight heavens or dif- ferent degrees of happiness.

Some people in Australian tribes have had a belief in a happy other-world. In particular, those scattered over the south- eastern region believed in a future happy life "beyond the great water" or in the sky. This "paradise" was often called "gumtree country." The path to sky-land was believed to be by the rays of the setting sun or by the Milky Way.

So clearly, the idea of going to heaven when one dies is not the sole property of professing Christians. Pagans since time immemorial have had the same type of notions.

Where did this idea of going to heaven when you die come from? History tells us that many of the ideas of professing Christianity concerning heaven came directly from the ancient Egyptians.

The Egyptians believed that before the souls of the dead could reach the Egyptian "heaven”-- the Fields of Iaru-- and appear in the presence of Osiris, they must traverse a vast under world region called the Tuat which was inhabited by gods, devils, fiends, demons, good and bad spirits and the souls of the wicked, besides snakes, monsters and serpents. The Egyptian sacred book, The Book of the Dead, prescribed spells, incantations, prayers, charms and amulets to help the dead man overcome the dangers of the Tuat and to reach Sekhet Aaru and Sekhet Hetep, (E. A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 40-42).

But astounding as it may seen, neither Jesus nor His apostles taught that the righteous go to heaven! Notice the admission of a secular encyclopedia: "The dominant view in the early church seems to have been that until the return of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven to raise the dead, those who had died were as- leep, and that they would be suddenly awakened to be given their new bodies, after which they would reign with Him on earth for a thousands years ......" (The New International Encyclopedia, art. "Heaven," vol. 9, pp. 700-701).

The early Church clearly did not teach the concept of "going to heaven." Such teaching did not become popular until long after the death of the apostles!

Notice, how this belief of "going to heaven" gradually hap- pened: "But, largely under the influence of Greek thought, other conceptions {gradually} prevailed. The fate of the pat- riarchs, prophets, and pious men of the old dispensation nat- urally occupied much attention and led to the idea that they {their "immortal souls"} were detained in a preparatory abode which the fathers called limbus patrum, awaiting the advent of the Redeemer.

The general belief of Christians has been that since the resur- rection of Christ the just who are free from sin are admitted im mediately after death into heaven, where their chief joy consists in the unclouded vision of God" (ibid.).

Today, the idea of heaven being the "reward of the saved" is nearly universal among Protestant churches. The vast majority of professing Christians look forward to going to a "heaven"" where the righteous sit on clouds, pluck harps, shuffle through harp music, and look up into the face of the Master for all eternity!

Just what is the plain truth about heaven? What does your Bible teach about the "reward of the saved"?

The Book of Galatians actually summarizes the very purpose and plan of God for all of mankind. While addressing the Gentile-born converts in Galatia, the Apostle Paul was inspired to write, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the Promises made, And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs ac- cording to the Promise" (Gal. 3: 16, 29).

The true Christians of God are not yet a possessor of his Reward-- he or she is now only an "heir." What Christians shall inherit, if "saved"-- whatever shall be the "reward of the saved"-- wherever they shall spend eternity, is a definite, specific promise of God. And that promise was made to Abraham, called, in this same book of Galatians written for Genitle converts, the "father" of the faithful (Gal. 3:7).

If one is converted, regardless of race or color or sex; if one is "Christ's”, a Christian, then he becomes of Abra- ham's children, and an "heir" of the promise made to Abraham. What he is to inherit, then, is whatever was promised to Abraham

Now just what did God promise to give Abraham? (Gen. 12:2-3. 6-7) In this case the word "seed" means offspring. So the promise to Abraham and his offspring, his descendants, was the land of Canaan!

How long did God promise Abraham that he and his seed would possess the land? (Gen. 13:15) God told Abraham that it would be forever. Now since the inheritance is to be an eternal inheritance, it only stands to reason this involves and includes everlasting LIFE!

Notice how God expanded this promise to include the whole earth. (Romans 4:13) Also notice that not one word about heaven! Through Abraham, all true Christians are promised this earth!

Now when God made these promises to Abraham, God conditioned it on obedience. What did God tell Abraham to do? (Gen. 12:1) Did Abraham resist, quibble and argue with God about leaving his homeland, his friends and relatives, his old way of life. Abraham forsook all and followed where God led.

All people who have not descended from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob (Israel) are called "Gentiles” in the Bible. And so Paul went to show these Gentile-born Galatians that the only way they could become heirs to the promise made to Abraham was by becoming children ( "seed") of Abraham by spiritual adoption through Christ!

Now read what Paul told the Ephesian Gentile Christians be- fore their conversion. "Therefore remember that you, once Gentile in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands, that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2: 11-12).

As Gentiles, they had been "strangers" from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. But through Christ and His sacrifice, they were brought near to the promise. (Eph. 2:13). Now because of the Christ's sacrifice they were no more strangers and foreigners (Eph. 2:19).

So today whosoever will from every nation may become an "heir" of the promises God made to Abraham by becoming his "seed" through Christ!

All true Christians are heirs with Abraham to inherit (1) Eternal Life and (2) Eternal inheritance of the entire earth. "Heaven" was not included in the promises God made to Abra- ham. Just when will Abraham and his seed receive their in- heritance? When will they receive the promises? Has Abraham already "gone to his reward?” Has he already inherited the promises?

Has Abraham yet, even today, received the inheritance God promised to him? (Acts 7:2-5) Stephens plainly states that Abraham never received the promised inheritance, even though God's promise was made unconditional because of his obed- ience.

Now read this from the pages of your own Bible. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were merely sojourners, that is, temporary inhabiters, visitors in the land God had promised to them. Hebrews 11:8-10. Had they, at the time of the book Hebrews was written, received these promises? Verse 13, 39-40. Abraham was still dead during the time of Christ and the Apostles. "Then the Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets: and You say, 'If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death." "Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the pro- phets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be"? (John 8 52-53).

Do you believe what you have just read, or will you try and just spiritualize it away? The Scriptures say in plain language that all these men died, in faith, NOT having received the promises! The very fathers to whom the promises were made did not "go to their reward" years after the resurrection and ascension of Christ to heaven!

In confirming the promises of eternal inheritance God made to the "fathers" (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) Christ always preached the Gospel-- the good news-- of the Kingdom ofGod. This Kingdom is to occupy and govern the earth .The same earth thathas been promised to Abraham and his heirs for an eternal inheritance. Notice what Christ said of the men of the promises inLuke 13:28 and Matt. 8:11

To enter into, or "inherit" the divine Kingdom of God is a destiny of such marvelous glory that the human mind cannot fully grasp it! Men and women today have no conception of what is in store for the obedient. The inheritance that awaits every true Christian surpasses anything you have ever conceived in your mind! "Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him" (I Corth. 2:9).

One day the disciples asked Christ to teach them how to pray. Notice what Christ said: "In this manner, therefore pray: Our Father in heaven Hallowed be Your name, Your Kingdom come Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:9-10).

If, we Christians are to pray for God's Kingdom to come to this earth, then it is quite obvious the Kingdom is not here on the earth yet. Notice where the inheritance is kept, (I Peter 1:3-4:Luke 6:23 and Matt. 5:12)

Notice that these words do not say, "Great is your reward when you get to heaven." These verses do not tell us when or where Christians will receive their inheritance and rewards, only that they are being "reserved" for them in heaven!

When will the "saved," or "righteous" inherit the Kingdom of God-- receive their inheritance and rewards? (Matt. 25:31-34). Clearly it is when Christ returns that Abraham and hischildren will become inheritors of the promises.

Now notice that something must happen when Christ returns to this earth. ( I Corth. 15:50). No human can inherit the King dom of God. The Kingdom of God is not a human kingdom, thereare no humans in it. It is a divine Kingdom, the God Kingdom.

At the second coming of Jesus Christ all the dead in Christ will be raised with new spirit BODIES; and those mortal Christians still alive at His return will be instantly changed into the same kind of spirit bodies, bodies which can inherit the Kingdom of God. Our present flesh is corruptible, subject to death and decay. But spirit beings are eternally new, immortal, incorrupt- ible, never subject to death and decay!

Notice what Jesus Christ said about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: (Matt. 22:31-32) These verses are often twisted aroundand perverted in an attempt to prove that Abraham is not dead,that he has already gone to his reward, without having to beresurrected, just the diametric opposite of what Jesus used thisillustration to point out.

God is the God of the living, not the dead. Jesus was speaking of their future resurrection to immortal life! For He plainly said, "As touching the resurrection of the dead."

Without a resurrection the dead would never live again! ( I Corth. 15: 16, 18) Therefore, the resurrection of the dead is central to God's plan. And unless Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all deceased Christians are resurrected from the grave at Christ's coming, they cannot inherit the promises!

The resurrrectin of the dead will occur at the second coming of Christ, when He comes as the King of kings and the Lord of lords to reign over and to rule all nations of the earth. When He comes to set up His Kingdom, then Abraham and his spiritual children in Christ shall be given immortality and will inherit the Kingdom of God-- a world ruling government headed and ruled by Christ-- occupying the very land promised to Abraham-- the land streching from the Nile to the Euphrates River. And this King- dom or government composed of immortals shall rule over all the nations of earth composed of flesh and blood mortals

When Jesus Christ returns, He will say, "Come ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you" (Matt. 25: 34). Will you be among those who will inherit the Kingdom of God, along with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

May God help you to understand, and qualify to have a part in that glorious kingdom!

 
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