The Teachings and Beliefs of the Apostles – Part 5
In our previous articles we discussed what
(1) The Patriarchs and Moses,
(2) the Psalmists, Solomon, and the Prophets,
(3) the 1st Century Jews,
(4) and Jesus Christ
believed about the question “Mankind’s hope for the future. Where will it be?” We will now examine the important subject as to what the Apostles believed and taught while on earth.
This will answer the question as to whether after Jesus death and resurrection the Apostles later taught any exception or change to the belief that the resurrection would be back to earth? Also, if so, did they have the authority to do so?
Writings of the Apostles
Introduction: As an overriding principle, all the writing of the Apostles, must be considered in the light of the beliefs of the Patriarchs, Psalmists and 1st Century Jews and especially including the teachings of Jesus. In addition, we would need to keep in mind the fact that any changes of beliefs would have to be instigated by Jesus Christ as the head of the Christian Congregation and King of God’s Kingdom. Otherwise, the apostles would be violating their own principle in Galatians 1:8, where Paul stated: ”even if we or an angel out of heaven were to declare to you as good news something beyond what we declared to you as good news, let him be accursed”. A sobering thought indeed!
We will look at the writings of the Apostle Paul, Apostle Peter and Apostle John.
1. Apostle Paul
One of the key passages touching on the resurrection is 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 which was written circa 55CE. This is perhaps the passage used most often to support a hope of life in heaven, so it deserves a careful, in depth examination.
From NWT (Reference Edition)
“35 Nevertheless, someone will say: “How are the dead to be raised up? Yes, with what sort of body are they coming?” 36 You unreasonable person! What you sow is not made alive unless first it dies; 37 and as for what you sow, you sow, not the body that will develop, but a bare grain, it may be, of wheat or any one of the rest; 38 but God gives it a body just as it has pleased him, and to each of the seeds its own body. 39 Not all flesh is the same flesh, but there is one of mankind, and there is another flesh of cattle, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 And there are heavenly bodies, and earthly bodies; but the glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort. 41 The glory of the sun is one sort, and the glory of the moon is another, and the glory of the stars is another; in fact, star differs from star in glory. 42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption, it is raised up in incorruption. 43 It is sown in dishonor, it is raised up in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised up in power. 44 It is sown a physical body, it is raised up a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual one. 45 It is even so written: “The first man Adam became a living soul.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 Nevertheless, the first is, not that which is spiritual, but that which is physical, afterward that which is spiritual. 47 The first man is out of the earth and made of dust; the second man is out of heaven. 48 As the one made of dust [is], so those made of dust [are] also; and as the heavenly one [is], so those who are heavenly [are] also. 49 And just as we have borne the image of the one made of dust, we shall bear also the image of the heavenly one. 50 However, this I say, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom, neither does corruption inherit incorruption. 51 Look! I tell YOU a sacred secret: We shall not all fall asleep [in death], but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised up incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this which is corruptible must put on incorruption, and this which is mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when [this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and] this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: “Death is swallowed up forever.” 55 “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting producing death is sin, but the power for sin is the Law. 57 But thanks to God, for he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (NWT)
From 2001 Translation
““35 Why, some of you have been asking, ‘Just how will the dead be raised… in what sort of bodies will they return?’ 36 You foolish people! Those who plant seeds know that they can’t live unless they die first; 37 for whatever is planted isn’t the body that it’s going to become… it’s just a naked grain of wheat, or whatever. 38So understand that God will give us any [type of] body He wishes, just as He gives each seed its own body.39 Realize that not all flesh is the same! There is one type of flesh of men, another of cattle, another of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies… and the glory of heavenly bodies is different from that of earthly bodies. 41 Why, the glory of the sun is one type, the glory of the moon is another, and the glory of the stars is yet another. In fact, stars differ from other stars in their glory. 42 So, that’s how it will be with the resurrection of the dead:
‘It’s planted in decay and then raised as clean.
43 It’s planted without honor, and then raised in glory.
It’s planted as weak, and then raised in power.’
44 Therefore, what’s planted as a breather’s body will be raised as a spiritual body… as there’s a breather’s body, there is also a spiritual [one].
45 It’s written that the first man (Adam) became a living soul. However, the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 Thus the first [body] is human, not spiritual, for the spiritual one comes later. 47 Likewise, as the first man came from the dust of the ground and the second man came from heaven; 48 those that come from the dust are like the one who came from the dust, while those that are heavenly are like the heavenly one. 49Therefore, as we’ve worn the shape of the one who was made from the dust of the ground, we’ll also wear the image of the Celestial One. 50 Let me tell you this brothers: Flesh and blood can’t inherit God’s Kingdom, nor can [something] that’s corruptible inherit something that’s incorruptible. 51 Look, I’m going to explain a mystery to you: Not all of us will be laid to rest; rather, we’ll be changed 52 in a moment – in the twinkling of an eye – during the last trumpet! For the trumpet will be blown and the dead will be raised incorruptible… yes we will be changed. 53 Then that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility, and that which is dying will put on immortality. 54 But when that which is dying puts on immortality, the words that were written will be fulfilled: ‘Death, which prevails, will be swallowed.‘ 55 ‘So where is your victory, O death… yes, where is your sting, O death?’ 56 The sting that brings death is sin, and the power for sin comes from the Law. 57 But thanks to God, who will bring each of us victory through our Lord Jesus the Anointed One!” [2001Translation.com]
We first need to examine Verse 40, which contains the word “Heavenly” – Strong’s Greek: ‘epouranios’ (2032) which carries the meaning of “the impact of heavens influence on a particular situation or person or the sphere of spiritual activities”.
On this basis therefore, partakers are of the calling from heaven, not a calling to heaven. See John 6:44 “no man can come to me unless the father, who sent me, draws him and I will resurrect him in the last day.”. We would also therefore understand this verse to mean a [perfect] body [re]created [influenced] by heavens rather than an inherited [imperfect] earthly body.
In Verses 39 through 41 Paul contrasts different bodies, different flesh, and the differing glory of the sun, the moon and the stars and between stars.
Therefore, when Paul applies these contrasts in verse 42, he is showing that those resurrected will not resurrected in the same state in which they died. Rather he says, “So also is the resurrection of the dead. It [an imperfect body] is sown [born] in corruption, it is raised up [resurrected] in incorruption [a perfect body].” There is no concept stated here of being raised imperfect and growing to perfection as some teach, nor of being raised in a spirit body, nor to heaven as others teach.
In Verses 44 and 46 we find the phrase “a body natural [physical] and a body spiritual”, (Greek “soma psychikon” and “soma pneumatikon”).
From a small seed an imperfect [fleshly minded] body [person] slowly grew up. By contrast, this dead imperfect body [or person] was going to be quickly raised or resurrected in a spiritually minded perfect body according to verse 46. The physical body existed first [the imperfect one], then the spiritual body [the perfect one].
- Note: There is no correlation between a spirit body that the angels have and a spiritual body. A spiritual body is a person that allows themselves to be guided by the righteous, heavenly influence of the Holy Spirit. A spirit body is different to a spiritual body. Both Verses 44 and 46 mention a spiritual According to Strong’s, the Greek ‘pnematikos’ (4152) is translated as “spiritual”. Just as an imperfect body requires “pneuma”, spirit or breath to live, likewise a spiritual body is someone who is filled with and governed by the Holy Spirit of God, not someone raised as a spirit creature of some form.
After saying “The first man is out of the earth and made of dust“, verse 47 continues with the phrase “the second man is out of heaven.” The Greek word “ek” carries the meaning of “Out from” along with “to”, i.e. “outcome”. This helps us understand Verse 48.
Verse 48 emphasizes the earlier arguments with another contrast. “As the one made of dust is, [Adam], so those made of the earth [all humans] are also; and as the one of heaven (epouranios – singular)[i] is [Jesus Christ], so also are those of heaven (epouranioi – plural)” [Interlinear]. Paul’s comment therefore is that just as Jesus was produced by heaven [by Jehovah] likewise the chosen ones would be of heaven, the outcome of power applied by heaven as emphasised in verse 51.
These same thoughts are yet again described in similar language in Verse 49. Here it says that Man born in the image of imperfection, [like sinful Adam], will bear the image of the perfect, heavenly Jesus [from Jehovah] in perfection. They will be born again as [perfect] sons of God, as Adam was, when he was created as a perfect [human] son of God. “Bearing the image” is not the equivalent of a body with the same spirit nature as Jesus. Rather it means “close in resemblance” or “a reflection of”. (See also Romans 6:1-7 below).
Paul then goes on to explain why this change is required in Verse 50. This is because corruption [imperfection] cannot inherit Gods Kingdom. Imperfect, corrupted bodies must be changed to uncorrupted [perfect] bodies to be able to inherit a perfect Kingdom arrangement with Jesus as its King.
How would this change be accomplished? Paul answers this question in the following Verses 51-52. Those alive at that time will be changed into perfect bodies at that time. Hence, they will no longer be under sins law leading to death, thanks to Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.
When would these events take place?
Verse 52 informs us, “during the last trumpet”. This is when those resurrected are resurrected as perfect humans, and those still alive will be made perfect, by the application of the ransom, in the twinkling of an eye, no gradually growing to perfection. This verse links with Revelation 11:15-18 where the seventh and final trumpet is blown, and Jesus Kingdom takes power and gives the reward to the faithful ones.
A common word used in Verses 43,50,53,54 is “Incorruption” – [Strong’s Greek ‘aphtharsia’ (861)] – properly no-corruption (i.e. perfect – unable to experience deterioration). Hence this word conveys the thought of unending life like Adam, of course until he sinned which lead to deterioration and corruption and death. Incorruption is frequently contrasted with “Corruption” – [Strong’s Greek ‘phthora’ – (5356)] – destruction from internal corruption, decay. This is yet another pair of contrasts in this passage by the Apostle Paul.
The very word “Resurrection” – [Strong’s Greek ‘anastasia’ 386] means to stand erect – from a prostrate position, with no connotation of being taken as spirit to heaven. (See also 1 Thessalonians 4)
The culmination of this section of scripture is Verse 54. Here, after contrasting again and again flesh, corruption, [decay] and mortal, with spiritual, incorruption, [no decay] and immortal, Paul states “But when this which is corruptible puts on incorruption and this which is mortal puts on immortality, then the saying will take place that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up forever.’”
It can clearly be seen that the focus of these contrasts is to show that
- only perfection not imperfection, can inherit the perfect kingdom of God,
- fleshly minded people will not inherit the kingdom only spiritually minded ones, and
- also, that when humans are made perfect then death [through Adamic sin] is ended. This transformation from imperfect to perfect humans does not happen over a long period of time (e.g. the 1,000 year reign) as taught by some with no scriptural evidence, but rather as verse 52 states: ”in the twinkling of an eye at the last trumpet”.
In our search for the truth about mankind’s hope for the future, we now move on about a year to about 56CE when the Apostle Paul wrote to the congregation in Rome. Romans 6:1-7 states:
“1Consequently, what shall we say? Shall we continue in sin, that undeserved kindness may abound? 2 Never may that happen! Seeing that we died with reference to sin, how shall we keep on living any longer in it? 3 Or do YOU not know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we were buried with him through our baptism into his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised up from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also should likewise walk in a newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with him in the likeness of his death, we shall certainly also be [united with him in the likeness] of his resurrection; 6 because we know that our old personality was impaled with [him], that our sinful body might be made inactive, that we should no longer go on being slaves to sin. 7 For he who has died has been acquitted from [his] sin.”
How was Jesus resurrected? He was resurrected three days after his death on the torture stake as a spirit creature with immortality. However, initially he remained on earth, ascending to heaven forty days later. If we are acquitted from sin when we die (verse 7), why would we be raised or resurrected with imperfect bodies [which would be liable to sin] rather than perfect bodies? This portion also conveys the same thought as that discussed a year earlier with the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 15:35-57. (See discussion of this scripture above).
Genesis 1:26 reminds us that “God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image [shadow, semblance] according to our likeness.’”. We understand this logically to mean with qualities such as love, wisdom, justice, kindness, etc. Adam was also created perfect with ‘life age long’, with the only way he would die being in the case of disobedience.
The context of verses 1-7 also is contrasting sin and the lack of sin i.e. perfection. Therefore, the logical inference is that any resurrection would be without sin. Jesus of course was without sin and perfect. We would therefore understand this passage as that if we are baptized in Jesus name and die faithful like Jesus, then our resurrection would be like Jesus as a perfect being. In our case, it would be as a perfect human rather than as a perfect spirit, no longer slaves to sin. Like and Likeness is not the same as identical, duplicate, it is similar. Hence there is nothing implied in this passage of scripture that those resurrected would be spirit creatures any more than Adam was a spirit creature.
Revelation 6:9-11 also assists with understanding this scripture. It describes the souls of those slaughtered because of the word of God [like Jesus was, and so baptized into his death], and they are told to rest until the number was filled with their fellow slaves and their brothers who would also be killed as they had been. Revelation 20:4-6 states that “4they came to life and ruled as kings with Christ for a thousand years … 5This is the first resurrection. 6Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority” i.e. immortality.
See the comment on 1 Corinthians 15:35-57 which was written the year before this passage in Romans. (circa 55AD as opposed to circa 56AD).
“What, then, was the fruit that YOU used to have at that time? Things of which YOU are now ashamed. For the end of those things is death. 22 However, now, because YOU were set free from sin but became slaves to God, YOU are having YOUR fruit in the way of holiness, and the end everlasting life. 23 For the wages sin pays is death, but the gift God gives is everlasting life by Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Here we see the Apostle Paul contrasting the Romans sinful condition and the result of which is death, with gaining everlasting life as a gift from God because of the ransom paid by Christ Jesus. There is no description of the location, but as death is on earth, by default the everlasting life would naturally be understood to be on earth.
Paul wrote similarly to Titus in Titus 1:1-4.
“1Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the faith of God’s chosen ones and the accurate knowledge of the truth which accords with godly devotion 2 upon the basis of a hope of the everlasting life which God, who cannot lie, promised before times long lasting, 3 whereas in his own due times he made his word manifest in the preaching with which I was entrusted, under command of our Savior, God; 4 to Titus, a genuine child according to a faith shared in common”.
This passage shows that around 30 years later after the death of Jesus, the apostles were still were talking about the original promise of everlasting life believed by the Israelites, a hope most Jews still knew and believed except for the sect of the Sadducees.
This examination would not be complete without the following relevant scriptures, all of which need to be read carefully without preconceptions.
Firstly, Hebrews 3:1 written in c61CE. Here Paul made the following statement:
“Consequently, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest whom we confess—Jesus.”
We have already checked on the meaning of “Heavenly”, but as a reminder it translates the Greek word (Strong’s ‘epouranios’, 2032) as “heavenly – impact of heavens influence on particular situation or person. Sphere of spiritual activities.”
Therefore, the holy brothers were partakers of a divine invitation or calling from heaven, not calling or invitation literally to heaven. What kind of invitation is indicated for us in John 6:44 where Jesus explained that: “no man can come to me unless the father, who sent me, draws (draws in, induces) him and I will resurrect him in the last day.”
- “Spiritual” – (Strong’s Greek ‘pneumatikos’, 4152) – one who is filled with and governed by the spirit of God.
- “Calling” – (Strong’s Greek ‘klesis’, 2821) – a calling, summons, invitation. Clearly done by someone else to an individual, not a personal choice as in ‘I have a calling to be a Doctor’.
- “Partakers” – (Strong’s Greek ‘metochos’, 3353) – a sharer, partner, associate.
This verse could therefore be translated as ‘holy brothers, sharers of the invitation extended [or made] by [or from] heaven’, bearing in mind the context of Matthew 22:14 talking about the wedding feast: “For there are many invited, but few chosen” could imply that not all ‘holy ones’ would necessarily be chosen to be kings and priests, or that many are invited to be chosen ones, but ultimately few chosen as being suitable. See also Revelation 17:14b “Also, those called [invited] and chosen and faithful with him”
It is therefore also important to examine Colossians 1:2, 4, 12, 26 which discusses the Christian hope. There Paul wrote c60-61CE:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will, and Timothy [our] brother 2 to the holy ones and faithful brothers in union with Christ at Co·losʹsae: May YOU have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father. 3 We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for YOU, 4 since we heard of YOUR faith in connection with Christ Jesus and the love YOU have for all the holy ones 5 because of the hope that is being reserved for YOU in the heavens. …. thanking the Father who rendered YOU suitable for YOUR participation in the inheritance of the holy ones in the light. …. the sacred secret that was hidden from the past systems of things and from the past generations. But now it has been made manifest to his holy ones, 27 to whom God has been pleased to make known what are the glorious riches of this sacred secret among the nations.”
Let us examine the phrase “the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens” :
The word translated “reserved” is ‘apokeimai’ [Strong’s Greek 606] which means “to be laid up , preserved, to be in store” . The scripture says the hope is reserved. We can understand this as being like a theatre ticket being reserved for a show. The theatre ticket will be reserved in your name, maybe on a central computer at an office, but the ticket is for a particular show at a particular theatre at a particular time. It does not necessarily mean that the ticket is at the theatre, and likewise does not require the destination of the hope to be in the same location as the reservation. After all, it is Jehovah and Jesus who make the reservation (in heaven) not men on earth and so it is secure, only Jehovah and Jesus being able to rescind the reservation. The reservation cannot be taken or cancelled by others, only by the invited one and the givers of the invitation.
- The subject in this verse 5 and hence emphasis, is on “the hope”, the hope itself being reserved in the heavens. The subject is not “the heavens” therefore it cannot be implied that “the heavens” is destination or result of the hope.
2. Apostle Peter
Apostle Peter made an almost identical statement in 1 Peter 1:3-5 circa 62-64CE :
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance. It is reserved in the heavens for YOU, who are being safeguarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last period of time.”
These verses contain similar wording to Colossians 1 examined above. The apostle Peter writes that their incorruptible inheritance was being reserved (“reserved” – [Strong’s Greek 5083 “tereo”]: guard, watch over, observe, to keep (secure)) guarded, watched over) in the heavens. This however does not mean that the heavens were the location of the inheritance, nor where they would enjoy it. Rather the security/ guarantee that they would get an inheritance, because God was guarding it. The inheritance was not reserved on the earth subject to the whims of corrupt men and subject to death, wars, changes of governments, etc. This understanding is confirmed by the next phrase ‘being safeguarded by God’s power’.
Furthermore, it is important to note that what exactly the salvation constituted was only to be fully “revealed in the last period of time”, i.e. the distant future, not at that time.
No discussion of this subject would be complete without the Apostle John’s writings in Revelation.
3. Apostle John
Jesus gave the Revelation to John circa 96CE. Did he reveal anything new about mankind’s hope for the future at that time? Let us examine some key scriptures.
Firstly Revelation 5:8-10. This reads:
“And when he took the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, having each one a harp and golden bowls that were full of incense, and the [incense] means the prayers of the holy ones. 9 And they sing a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and open its seals, because you were slaughtered and with your blood you bought persons for God out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 and you made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.”(NWT)
The Kingdom Interlinear[ii] also reads “and they are reigning upon the earth” The Greek word “epi” is primarily translated as “on, or upon” as in “upon the surface of”. More rarely used figuratively of things, affairs, a person which one is set over, over which he exercises power, i.e. “over” as the Queen of England rules “over” the United Kingdom. Either way it cannot not be read as a location i.e. being in heaven. This scripture either indicates the ruling is on earth, or solely the action of ruling without any indication of from where they rule. Other uses of “epi” which confirm this include the following:
- Revelation 5:1 ‘upon the throne’,
- Revelation 5:3 ‘in heaven nor upon the earth’,
- Revelation 5:7 ‘seated on the throne’, Revelation 5:13 ‘in heaven and on earth and underneath the earth’.
It is clear that all these verses translate “epi” as “on” or “upon”. Therefore, a clearer, consistent, non-ambiguous translation in verse 10 would be “upon the earth”. Indeed, a very large proportion of other bible translations have the phrase “rule as kings on the earth”. (Biblehub shows 25 of 28 translations have “on” or “upon”, only 3 have “over”, yet these are all translations made by translators who believe they will go to heaven.)
Revelation 11:12-13 is part of the vision about the two Witnesses. Speaking about the two witnesses it says:
“And after the three and a half days spirit of life from God entered into them, and they stood upon their feet, and great fear fell upon those beholding them. And they heard a loud voice out of [the] heaven[s] (Gr: (2) ‘Ouranou’ – spirit realm)[iii] say to them: “Come on up here.” And they went up into [the] heaven[s] (Gr:(5) ‘Ouranon’ – physical sky)[iv] in the cloud, and their enemies beheld them. 13 … and the rest became frightened and gave glory to the God of heaven (Gr: (2) ‘Ouranou’ – spirit realm)[v]” (NWT)
12 Then [the two witnesses] heard a loud voice from heaven say to them, ‘Come on up here.’ And their enemies saw them ascend into the sky in a cloud. 13 This was followed by a tremendous shaking, and a tenth of the city ([Sodom and Egypt]) toppled, destroying the names of seven thousand people. This frightened all those who remained, and they gave glory to The God of heaven.” http://www.2001translation.com/Revelation.htm
This event appears to be linked with 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 which stated: “For this is what we tell YOU by Jehovah’s word, that we the living who survive to the presence of the Lord shall in no way precede those who have fallen asleep [in death]; because the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a commanding call, with an archangel’s voice and with God’s trumpet, and those who are dead in union with Christ will rise first. Afterward we the living who are surviving will, together with them, be caught away in clouds to meet the Lord in the air;[sky] and thus we shall always be with [the] Lord.”
- On its own, without the original Greek Text, it could appear to indicate that their destination is heaven, but as with 1 Thessalonians they only go to the sky, earthly heavens, not outer space or God’s presence. Hence, in context with other scriptures these verses would be better understood as per the scripture in Thessalonians i.e. the air or earthly heavens (atmosphere) as opposed to the heavens of God’s presence.[vi]
Revelation 20:1-6 records the abyssing of Satan the Devil. It reads:
” And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven with the key of the abyss and a great chain in his hand. 2 And he seized the dragon, the original serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years. 3 And he hurled him into the abyss and shut [it] and sealed [it] over him, that he might not mislead the nations anymore until the thousand years were ended. After these things he must be let loose for a little while. 4And I saw thrones, and those who sat on them were given authority to judge. Yes, I saw the souls of those executed for the witness they gave about Jesus and for speaking about God, and those who had not worshipped the wild beast or its image and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand. And they came to life and ruled as kings with the Christ for 1,000 years. 5 (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the 1,000 years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. 6 Happy and holy is anyone having part in the first resurrection; over these the second death has no authority, but they will be priests of God and of the Christ, and they will rule as kings with him for the 1,000 years.”
The context of these verses are the events on earth with the war of Jesus against the kings of the earth! The angel comes down out of heaven [to earth where Satan was earlier confined], and abysses Satan. (see Revelation 12:7-10). Then thrones are seen. In context this would indicate they too are on earth!
Verse 4 talks about these faithful martyrs coming to life (which would be on earth) and begin ruling as kings. It does not state they come to life and go to heaven.
Verse 6 talks about the first (in time, order) resurrection implying a continuation into the second part of the resurrection. It make logical sense to resurrect the kings and priests needed to the earth before any further resurrection takes place particularly of the unrighteous. (Resurrection (Strong’s Greek 386 – ‘anastasis’) is ‘to stand up again’ not to become a spirit creature.)
Verse 7 continues with the description of the test to come at the end of the 1,000 years, on earth! The test would definitely be of the unrighteous. Furthermore, it does not make sense to understand that the thrones are in heaven unless the text explicitly says so, which it does not.
A description of that time of testing in found in the following verses, Revelation 20:7-10, which read:
“7 Now as soon as the thousand years have been ended, Satan will be let loose out of his prison, 8 and he will go out to mislead those nations in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Maʹgog, to gather them together for the war. The number of these is as the sand of the sea. 9 And they advanced over the breadth of the earth and encircled the camp of the holy ones and the beloved city. But fire came down out of heaven and devoured them. 10 And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulphur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet [already were]; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.”
In context these holy ones must be on earth for the following reasons:
(1) The nations that Satan goes out to mislead are on earth.
(2) They encircle the camp of the holy ones and the city, and the nations do not go to heaven to do so, therefore this must be on earth.
(3) Because fire comes down from heaven and devours those who have come from all over the earth to destroy them.
In addition, there is no good reason for inferring that these ‘holy ones’ are different to the ‘holy ones’ spoken of elsewhere in the Greek scriptures (New Testament).
Our final passage from Revelation is Revelation 21:2-3, 7 9-10. There the apostle John writes:
“2 I saw also the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of [the] heaven from God and prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3With that I heard a loud voice say: Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them.”, “7Anyone conquering will inherit these things”, “9..Come here, I will show you the bride, the Lamb’s wife. ..10… he showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of [the] heaven from God, ”.
At first glance, we might assume this is the one bible passage indicating the kings and priests come down from the heavens, but when we read the scripture more carefully and check the Greek text, we find the following:
- New Jerusalem comes down out of the The original text has the definite article “the” (Strong’s Greek “tou” 3588) in both verse 2 and verse 10. The “heaven” (“ouranou”)[vii] is the sky, (the vaulted expanse of the sky with all the things visible in it, as opposed to the earth, the aerial heavens or sky where clouds gather, and thunder and lightning are produced).
So New Jerusalem is seen coming from the clouds / sky. Where do the kings and priests get taken to?
- In 1 Thessalonians 4:17 we established (in clouds to meet the Lord (bridegroom) in the air) and
- In Revelation 11:13 (into [the] heaven in the cloud) anD
- In Matthew 24:30 (the son of man coming on the clouds of [the] heaven) i.e.the Sky.
All these scriptures also have the definite article with the word heaven, i.e. the heaven. This heaven is not the heavens of Jehovah’s presence, but the atmospheric sky.
We have been able to establish that while there are scriptures that have been interpreted over the centuries as teaching a hope as a spirit creature in the heavens with God and Jesus, there are no clear teachings by the Apostles and writers of the remainder of the Greek scriptures (New Testament) that any people at all would go to the heavens, to Jehovah’s presence, to rule as kings and priests with Jesus in heaven. Rather their ruling and presence would be with Jesus on earth.
So far, we have examined:
- The beliefs and writings of Moses and the Patriarchs
- The beliefs and writings of the Psalmists, Solomon and the Prophets
- The beliefs of the 1st Century Jews
- The beliefs and teachings of Jesus Christ, the Son of God
- The beliefs and teachings of the Apostles
Thus far, all these examinations show that
- They all had a belief in everlasting life.
- They all had a belief in resurrection back to life (on earth).
- There is no clear teaching or even a true hint of any hope of life in the heavens.
To complete the picture, we need to briefly examine the understanding and teaching on the resurrection in a small amount of detail. It is also good to see what clear parallels there are between the way of worship of the Nation of Israel and that of the Christian Congregation.
We will examine these subjects to see if this adjusts our conclusions above in our sixth and concluding article of this series. “The Teaching of the Resurrection and Biblical Parallels and Other Relevant Scriptures.
IMPORTANT REQUEST: It is requested that any comments (which are very welcome) be confined to the Bible books and period covered by this article. The whole of the Bible is being covered in sections of Bible writers and time periods. Please comment against the article for the time period of your scripture as this would be the best place for relevant comments to those sections.
[i] See Part 1 of this series re: Greek renderings of Heaven
[ii] Published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society
[iii] See Part 1 of this series re: Greek renderings of Heaven
[iv] See Part 1 of this series re: Greek renderings of Heaven
[v] See Part 1 of this series re: Greek renderings of Heaven
[vi] See later section dealing with Question: Who are the ‘Other Sheep’ and ‘this fold’ mentioned in John 10:16
[vii] See Part 1 of this series re: Greek renderings of Heaven