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Heaven is for real?

Recently a movie “Heaven is for Real” has hit the big screen. Most of Christianity believes that when you die, you [your immortal soul] goes into heaven where God is for eternity, doing who-knows-what, but possibly getting very good at playing a harp.

John 3:13 – that no one had ascended into heaven except Christ. [Here this is recorded years after Christ had ascended].  I am not sure what you feel this verse means, since [if I understand correctly] you feel that people do go into heaven [God’s realm] upon death?

Elijah

2 Kings 2:11 is this proof that Elijah was taken into the third heaven?

  • whirlwind into the heavens  = H5591 – b’sore = in the tempest of the sky
  • This would be the 1st heavens – the clouds!

There are three ‘heavens’ mentioned in the bible:

  1. The first, the atmosphere that envelops the earth  (Genesis:1:8, Genesis 7:11-12, Job 35:11, Jeremiah 16:4).
  2. The second, what we call “space” (Psalm 8:3, Genesis:15:5, Genesis:26:4; Deuteronomy:1:10; 28:62; Isaiah:13:10).
  3. The third, the location of God’s throne (2 Corinthians:12:2, Hebrews 8:1, Deuteronomy 26:15).

God’s realm is described as the 3rd heaven, certainly not the realm of “the tempest” that we have here within our atmosphere.

If John 3:13 is true, then you cannot assume that these men of old ascended into the third heaven since no man had… but rather are dead, and will be resurrected in their next conscious moment, at the last trump when Christ returns.

Later letter

Many readers assume that Elijah at that point was made immortal and taken to the heaven where God resides. This was not the case. The sons of the prophets knew otherwise. They knew the whirlwind had simply removed Elijah to another location on earth. They exclaimed to Elisha: “Look now, there are fifty strong men with your servants. Please let them go and search for your master, lest perhaps the Spirit of the Lord has taken him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley” (2 Kings:2:16).

The disciples were concerned for Elijah’s safety, so they sent out a party of 50 men to search for him. The 50 searched for three days but did not find him (2 Kings:2:17).

Another passage proves conclusively that Elijah was not taken up to live in heaven. The Bible records that Elijah wrote a letter to Jehoram, the king of Judah, several years after he was removed in the whirlwind.

Notice the sequence of events recorded for us in the Bible. Elijah’s last recorded and dated act occurred during the reign of the Israelite king Ahaziah when Elijah told the king he would die for his sins (2 Kings:1:3, 17). Ahaziah’s reign lasted only about a year, ca. 850 B.C.

Elijah’s removal and replacement by Elisha is then recorded in the next chapter, 2 Kings 2. The story continues with incidents from Elisha’s life, including an encounter with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (2 Kings:3:11-14).

Several years later Jehoram, son of Jehoshaphat, succeeded his father as king of Judah, ca. 845 B.C. (2 Kings:8:16)

Jehoram proved to be a wicked king, leading the nation of Judah in rebellion against God’s commandments. A few years into Jehoram’s reign, and several years after Elijah’s removal, Jehoram received a letter from Elijah warning the king of dire consequences because of his sins. This letter is recorded in 2 Chronicles:21:12-15

This letter proves that the prophet was still alive and on earth some years after he was removed by the whirlwind and replaced by Elisha. God had chosen Elisha to succeed Elijah as His prophet, so He bodily removed Elijah to another place, where he continued to live for at least several more years—as his letter to Jehoram demonstrates.

The Bible tells us nothing more about Elijah’s life following his writing of the letter. But he eventually died, just like the other prophets and righteous men of the Old Testament, who all died in faith, not yet receiving the eternal life God had promised (Hebrews:11:39).

Again, a careful reading of the Scriptures shows that Elijah’s miraculous removal by a fiery chariot involved transporting him to another location on earth, not to eternal life in heaven.

Enoch

Hebrews 11:5 tells us, “Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death.” The verse continues with a quotation from Genesis 5, saying that he “was not found.” The wording implies that someone was looking for him to cause him harm, and that God protected him by removing him to a safe place. Some assumed that God took him to heaven, but the verse does not say that. “Taken away” (“translated” in the King James Version) is from the Greek word metatithemi and it means “to transfer to another place” ( Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words , 1985).

Some jump to the conclusion that Enoch was taken up into [the 3rd] heaven, but the Bible nowhere says this. It simply says that God “took him.” It does not specify where he was taken.

The word rendered “taken” can also mean “transferred elsewhere.” And the New American Standard Bible says this was done “so that he would not see death”—a better translation than “did not,” as we know from the same chapter of Hebrews that he died.

In Hebrews 11:13 the summary is given of all of the men and women of faith, including Enoch: “These all 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” (Hebrews:11:13). So Enoch definitely died as well as all the rest.

It may be that God transported Enoch elsewhere to keep him from being killed at a certain time—perhaps protecting him from martyrdom at the hands of angry persecutors who didn’t like his announcement of coming divine judgment (see Jude 14-16). God likewise supernaturally transported Elijah and Philip to other places on earth (Acts:8:39 – we don’t assume that Philip was taken into heaven… but this was the same kind of supernatural transportation God used before for Elijah).

On the other hand, we should observe that Enoch died young for his time—at age 365 while those before and after him lived into their 800s and 900s. Because of this, some speculate that God “took him” from life prematurely so that he would not have to live out his remaining centuries in a miserable world (compare Isaiah:57:1-2).

His next moment of consciousness will be the resurrection. In this case, “so that he would not see death” would refer to his not having to experience the process of dying—his life ending instantly.

Still others, putting the likelihood of Enoch experiencing persecution together with his early death, have concluded that Enoch was murdered—martyred for his preaching. Enoch being taken and not found would then refer to God removing his body and burying it—as happened with Moses (Deuteronomy:34:5-6).

In this case, Enoch being taken or transferred so that he would not see death is taken as separate matter—that of him being spiritually converted, transferred from the world’s ways to God’s way of living, so that he would not see ultimate death in the lake of fire (compare Colossians:1:13; John:8:51).

Again, we don’t have enough details to know exactly what is intended. But we do know that Enoch did not skip death and go to heaven. He died, and no human being has ascended to heaven except Jesus Christ.

Common scriptures used to justify man’s ideas about heaven

  • Phil 1:23 – depart to be with Christ

    • Many have assumed from Paul’s words here that he believed that at the moment of his death his consciousness would leave his body to join Christ in heaven. But is this the case?

    • Before focusing on what this scripture says, let’s notice what it does not say. It does notsay when or where Paul would be with Christ if he departed. Neither is the terminology of departure intended to be geographic—as in leaving the earth to go to heaven. There is no reference to heaven in these verses. To conclude otherwise is to read assumptions into Paul’s words. Paul is simply referring to departing from his present, physical life—leaving it behind through death.

    • In his second letter to Timothy he speaks dogmatically of what lies ahead, knowing the end of his physical life is near and he is ready to depart: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy:4:6-8).

    • Paul, then, understood that he was not to receive his reward immediately at death. He knew that if executed, he would go to the grave, and there his remains would lie until the time of his resurrection. He understood that, since the dead have no thought processes whatsoever, in his next waking moment he would be with the returning Messiah, Jesus, joining Him along with the other saints at the time of the resurrection.

    • As he wrote to Timothy, he knew there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness that he would be given “on that Day” of Christ’s appearing— at Jesus’ second coming. As Paul noted, Jesus will bring Paul’s reward with Him. Paul will receive it at that time, not before, along with all others who will be resurrected at Christ’s return.

    • Describing this resurrection, Paul explains to the church in Corinth: “Behold I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians:15:51-52).

    • Paul knew he would receive his reward—his “change”—at Christ’s coming. He also knew that death before that time would mean “sleep,” unconsciousness, until the resurrection.

  • 2 Cor 5:8

    • Taking all verses as a whole – we understand the teaching of the resurrection – that in the next conscious moment after death, you would be raised out of your fleshly body and transformed into an “incorruptible” essence. Though not “inspired” the chapter heading gets it right with “assurance of the resurrection”

  • Luke 23:43

    • Christ could not have meant that the theif would go to heaven with him that day, as Christ had not ascended to heaven even 3 days/3 nights later [John 20:17]

    • The translators had already been affected by the Catholic teaching of heaven/hell which deviated from scripture. Thus a punctuation change makes all the difference in this case.  What should read:

      “Today I am telling you… that you will be with me in paradise”

    • The only paradise (the Kingdom of God) is going to be on Earth at Christ’s return, thus we need to understand the intent, not just comma placement in the translation.

  • Luke 16:22-23

    • its a parable… that’s not to teach us doctrine. [Although some make specific analogies, so the point is then to be made, but telling a story like this to make an unrelated point is to be taken figuratively.]  Granted, this logic is not bulletproof standalone

  • Heb 12:23

    • names written in the book of life as described in Revelation, to be read at the final judgment. There is no talk of this happening before Christ’s return

  • Matt 17:3 – this was a vision, not literal…

  • Rev 6:9-11;7:9-10

    • In this vision, John sees under the altar the martyred believers who sacrificed their lives for their faith in God. These souls figuratively cry out, “Avenge our blood!” This can be compared to Abel’s blood metaphorically crying out to God from the ground (Genesis:4:10). Though neither dead souls nor blood can actually speak, these phrases figuratively demonstrate that a God of justice will not forget the evil deeds of mankind perpetrated against His righteous followers.

    • In this vision, John was shown the future, this modern age, a time when one martyrdom has already taken place (during the Middle Ages) and a greater one (the Great Tribulation) is yet to happen. The souls who were “slain” (martyred Christian throughout the ages) were told, in Revelation 6:11, to “rest yet for a little season, until their fellow servants also and their brethren, that should be killed as they were, should be fulfilled.” Those who have died will continue to “rest” (remain “asleep [Eph. 5:14; I Cor. 11:30]” in their graves), until others are also martyred as they were.

    • The “souls” (dead saints) crying “avenge our blood” (vs. 10) is akin to Abel’s blood (his life [note Lev. 17:14]) crying to God from the earth (Gen. 4:10). Since blood does not talk and neither do the dead (Psa. 115:17; Ecc. 9:5, 10), we understand the meaning to be symbolic, not literal. Therefore, the “souls under the altar” represent those awaiting the future martyrdom of saints.

  • Psalm. 16:10-11

    • “soul” -> nephesh = life

    • “hell” ->  sheol = grave. (“unseen”)

    • man-made ideas about hell have perverted the scriptural meaning

  • Psalm 23:6

    • the righteous shall dwell with the Lord forever… upon Christ’s return.

    • No timing said or implied here.

Conclusion

Death is a prerequisite for resurrection, and resurrection (except for those alive at the coming of the Lord) from physical to spiritual is what it takes to “meet the Lord in the air” as he descends to Earth to rule as King of Kings in the Kingdom of God.

We read that “David did not ascend into the heavens” [Acts 2:34] but , “he died and was buried, and his tomb is still here among us.” [Acts 2:29].  Christ stated in John 3:13 that “no man has ascended into heaven!”

Christ alone has ascended to the throne of God mentioned in 1 Pet 3:22, and  Heb 8:1-2. Scripture cannot be broken. The same word for heaven used in 1 Peter 3:22 is used in John 3:13 saying that Christ alone has been and now is in the realm of God’s throne.

Instead of instantly floating on clouds and playing harps, the dead in Christ are dead until Christ returns and resurrects them into a spiritual incorruptible form. This change happens at the last trumpet (1 Thess 4, 1 Cor 15) at Christ’s return.  The patriarchs, and those who recently died in faith all await Christ’s return

Christ’s purpose on earth was to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. That Kingdom is only to be established at His return. This was the essential message! (The “Kingdom of Heaven” was used as a synonym in Matthew’s account, due to the cultural sensitivity to Jews who would not directly use God’s name [YHWH] to avoid breaking the third commandment) The Kingdom of God, or equivalent is used 80 times in the New Testament – it’s important to understand what that is and to “seek it first!”

 

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