In our previous video titled “Does it Grieve God’s Spirit When We Reject Our Heavenly Hope for an Earthly Paradise? We asked the question about whether one could really have an earthly hope on paradise earth as a righteous Christian? We showed, with the use of Scriptures, that this is not possible because it is the anointing with holy spirit that makes us righteous. Since the JW doctrine of being Jehovah’s friend and having an earthly hope isn’t scriptural, we wanted to explain from Scripture what the one true salvation hope is for Christians. We also discussed that setting our sights on heaven is not about looking at heaven as if it were a physical location where we will live. Where and how we will actually live and work is something that we trust God to reveal in the fullness of time knowing that whatever or however it all turns out, it will be better and more satisfying than our wildest imaginings.
I need to clarify something here before going further. I believe that the dead will be resurrected to earth. That will be the resurrection of the unrighteous and will be the vast, vast majority of humans who have ever lived. So don’t think for one moment that I don’t believe the earth will be inhabited under the kingdom of Christ. However, I am not talking about the resurrection of the dead in this video. In this video, I’m talking about the first resurrection. THE FIRST RESURRECTION. You see, the first resurrection is the resurrection not of the dead, but of the living. That is the hope of Christians. If that doesn’t make sense to you, consider these words from our Lord Jesus:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24 New King James Version)
You see, the anointing from God moves us out of the category of those God considers as dead and into the group he considers to be alive, even though we are still sinners and may have died physically.
Now let’s start by reviewing the Christian salvation hope as outlined in the Bible. Let’s begin by looking at the terms “heaven” and “heavens.”
When you think of heaven, do you think of a starry-lit night-sky, a place of unapproachable light, or a throne where God sits on shining gem stones? Of course, much of what we know about heaven is given to us by the prophets and apostles in vivid symbolic language because we are physical beings with finite sensory capacities who aren’t designed to understand dimensions beyond our life in space and time. Also, we need to keep in mind that those of us who have affiliation, or have had affiliation, with organized religion, may likely have false assumptions about heaven; so, let’s be aware of that and take an exegetical approach to our study of heaven.
In Greek, the word for heaven is οὐρανός (o-ra-nós) meaning the atmosphere, the sky, the starry visible heavens, but also the invisible spiritual heavens, what we simply call “heaven.” A note in Helps Word-studies on Biblehub.com says that “the singular “heaven” and the plural “heavens” have distinct overtones and therefore should be distinguished in translation though unfortunately they rarely are.”
For our purpose as Christians wanting to understand our salvation hope, we are concerned with the spiritual heavens, that heavenly reality of God’s Kingdom. Jesus says, “In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2 BSB)
How do we understand Jesus’s expression of an actual location, such as a house with rooms, in connection with the reality of God’s Kingdom? We can’t really think that God lives in a house, can we? You know, with a patio, a living room, bedrooms, a kitchen, and two or three bathrooms? Jesus said there are many rooms in his house and he’s going to his Father to prepare a place for us. It’s obvious he is using a metaphor. So we need to stop thinking about a place and start thinking about something else, but exactly what?
And what do we learn about heaven from Paul? After his vision of being caught up to the “3rd heaven,” he said:
“I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. (2 Corinthians 12:4 NLT)
It’s surprising, isn’t it, that Paul uses the word “paradise,” in Greek παράδεισος, (pa-rá-di-sos) which is defined as “a park, a garden, a paradise. Why would Paul use the word paradise to describe an intangible place like heaven? We tend to think of paradise as a physical place like the Garden of Eden with colorful flowers and pristine waterfalls. It is interesting that the Bible never directly refers to the Garden of Eden as a paradise. The word only occurs three times in the Christian Greek Scriptures. However, it does relate to the word for garden, which makes us think of the garden of Eden, and what was unique about that particular garden? It was a home created by God for the first humans. So perhaps we unthinkingly look to that garden of Eden at every mention of paradise. But we mustn’t think of paradise as a single place, but rather as something prepared by God for his children to dwell in. Thus, when the dying criminal on a cross next to Jesus asked him to “remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” Jesus could reply, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:42,43 BSB). In other words, you will be with me in a place that God has prepared for his human children.
The final occurrence of the word is found in Revelation where Jesus is speaking to anointed Christians. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (Revelation 2:7 BSB)
Jesus is preparing a place for the kings and priests in the house of his Father, but God is also preparing the earth to be inhabited by unrighteous resurrected humans—those who are to benefit from the priestly ministrations of the anointed kings and priests with Jesus. Truly then, as was the case in Eden before the fall of Mankind into sin, Heaven and Earth will join. The spiritual and the physical will overlap. God will be with humankind by means of Christ. In God’s good time, the earth will be a paradise, meaning a home prepared by God for his human family.
Nevertheless, another home prepared by God through Christ for anointed Christians, his adopted children, can also rightly be termed a paradise. We are not talking about trees and flowers and babbling brooks, but rather a beautiful home for God’s children which will take on whatever form he decides. How can we express spiritual thoughts with earthly words? We cannot.
Is it wrong to use the term “heavenly hope”? No, but we have to be careful that it doesn’t become a catchphrase that encompasses a false hope, because it is not a Scriptural expression. Paul talks about a hope reserved for us in the heavens—plural. Paul tells us in his letter to the Colossians:
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love you have for all the holy ones because of the hope that is being reserved for you in the heavens.” (Colossians 1:3-5 NWT)
“Heavens”, plural, is used hundreds of times in the Bible. It is not meant to convey a physical location but rather something about a human state of being, a source of authority or government that is over us. An authority that we accept and which gives us security.
The term, “kingdom of heaven,” does not appear a single time in the New World translation, yet it occurs hundreds of times in the publications of the Watch Tower Corporation. If I say “kingdom of heaven” then you are naturally going to think of a place. So the publications are at best sloppy in providing what they like to call “food at the proper time”. If they were to follow the Bible and accurately say, “kingdom of the heavens” (notice the plural) which occurs 33 times in the book of Matthew, they would avoid implying a location. But perhaps that would not support their doctrine that the anointed disappear off to heaven, never to be seen again. Obviously, because of its plural use, it is not referring to multiple places but rather to rulership which comes from God. With that in mind, let us read what Paul has to say to the Corinthians:
“Now I say this, brothers, that flesh and blood is not able to inherit the kingdom of God, nor does decay inherit immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:50 Berean Literal Bible).
Here we are not talking about a location but rather a state of being.
According to the context of 1 Corinthians 15, we will be spirit creatures.
“So it is with the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised up in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised up in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised up in power. 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. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living person.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (1 Corinthians 15:42-45)
Further, John specifically says that these righteous resurrected ones will have a heavenly body like Jesus:
“Beloved, we are now children of God, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when Christ appears, we will be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.” (1 John 3:2 BSB)
Jesus alluded to this when answering that trick question of the Pharisees:
“Jesus answered, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy to share in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In fact, they can no longer die, because they are like the angels. And since they are sons of the resurrection, they are sons of God.” (Luke 20:34-36 BSB)
Paul repeats John and Jesus’ theme that the resurrected righteous ones will have a spiritual body like Jesus.
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to subject all things to Himself, will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body.” (Philippians 3:21 BSB)
We should remember that having a spiritual body doesn’t mean the children of God will be locked away forever in realms of light never to see the green grass of earth again (as JW teachings would have us believe).
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, and He will dwell with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. (Revelation 21:1-3 BSB)
And you have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:10 NLT)
It’s hard to assume that serving as kings and priests means anything other than interacting with unrighteous humans in a human form to help those who have repented in or during the Messianic Kingdom. Likely the children of God will take on a fleshly body (as needed) to do work on the earth just as Jesus did, after he was resurrected. Remember, Jesus appeared repeatedly in the 40 days prior to his ascension, always in human form, and then disappeared from sight. Anytime the angels interacted with humans in the pre-Christian Scriptures, they took on human form, appearing as normal men. Admittedly, at this point we are engaging in conjecture. Fair enough. But remember what we discussed at the beginning? It doesn’t matter. The details don’t matter right now. What matters is that we know that God is love and his love is beyond measure, so we have no reason to doubt that the offer being made to us is worthy of every risk and every sacrifice.
We should also keep in mind that as children of Adam we aren’t entitled to be saved, or even to have a salvation hope because we are condemned to death. (“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23) It is only as the children of God who put faith in Jesus Christ (see John 1:12, 13) and are led by the Spirit that we are mercifully given a salvation hope. Please, let’s not make the same mistake as Adam and think we can have salvation on our own terms. We have to follow Jesus’ example and do what our heavenly Father commands us to do in order to be saved. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21 BSB)
So now let’s review what the Bible says about our salvation hope:
First, we learn that we have been saved by grace (through our faith) as a gift from God. “But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in our trespasses. It is by grace you have been saved!” (Ephesians 2:4-5 BSB)
Second, it is Jesus Christ who makes our salvation possible through his shed blood. The children of God take Jesus as their mediator of the new covenant as the only means to be reconciled to God.
“Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 BSB)
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5,6 BSB).
“…Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15 BSB)
Third, being saved by God means answering his calling of us through Christ Jesus: “Each one should lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him and to which God has called him.” (1 Corinthians 7:17)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms. For He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless in His presence. In love He predestined us for adoption as His sons through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will.” (Ephesians 1:3-5).
Fourth, there is only ONE true Christian salvation hope which is to be an anointed child of God, called by our Father, and the recipient of everlasting life. “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6 BSB).
Jesus Christ himself teaches the children of God that there is only one salvation hope and that is to endure a difficult life as a righteous one and then be rewarded by entering the kingdom of the heavens . “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them (Matthew 5:3 NWT)
“Happy are those who have been persecuted for righteousness’ sake, since the kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Matthew 5:10 NWT)
“Happy are YOU when people reproach YOU and persecute YOU and lyingly say every sort of wicked thing against YOU for my sake. Rejoice and leap for joy, since YOUR reward is great in the heavens; for in that way they persecuted the prophets prior to YOU.” (Matthew 5:11,12 NWT)
Fifth, and finally, regarding our salvation hope: there are only two resurrections supported in Scripture, not three (no righteous friends of Jehovah being resurrected to a paradise earth or righteous survivors of Armageddon staying on earth). Two places in the Christian Scriptures support the Bible teaching of:
1) The resurrection of the righteous to be with Christ as kings and priests in the heavens.
2) The resurrection of the unrighteous to the earth to judgment (many Bibles translate judgment as “condemnation”—their theology being that if you aren’t resurrected with the righteous then you may be resurrected just to be tossed into the lake of fire after the 1000 years are over).
“And I have the same hope in God that they themselves cherish, that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked.” (Acts 24:15 BSB)
“Do not be amazed at this, for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out—those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.” (John 5:28,29 BSB)
Here our salvation hope is clearly stated in scripture. If we think we can gain salvation just by waiting to see what happens, we need to think more carefully. If we think we are entitled to salvation because we know God and his Son Jesus Christ are good, and we want to be good, that is not enough. Paul warns us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.
“Therefore, my beloved just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now even more in my absence, continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose.” (Philippians 2:12,13 BSB)
Intrinsic to working out our salvation is a love of truth. If we do not love truth, if we think truth is conditional or relative to our own fleshly wants and desires then we cannot expect that God will find us, because he seeks those who worship in spirit and truth. (John 4:23, 24)
Before we conclude, we want to focus on something that it seems many miss regarding our salvation hope as Christians. Paul said at Acts 24:15 that he had hope that there would be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous? Why would he hope for a resurrection of the unrighteous? Why hope for unrighteous people? To answer that, we go back to our third point about being called. Ephesians 1:3-5 tells us that God chose us before the foundation of the world and predestined us for salvation as His sons through Jesus Christ. Why choose us? Why predestine a small group of humans for adoption? Doesn’t he want all humans to return to his family? Of course, he does, but the means to accomplish that is to first qualify a small group for a specific role. That role is to serve both as a government and a priesthood, a new heavens and a new earth.
This is evident from Paul’s words to the Colossians: “He [Jesus] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church; [that’s us] He is the beginning and firstborn from among the dead, [the first, but the children of God will follow] so that in all things He may have preeminence. For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, [that would include the unrighteous] whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through the blood of His cross.” (Colossians 1:17-20 BSB)
Jesus and his associate kings and priests will form the administration that will work to reconcile all of humanity back into God’s family. So when we speak of the salvation hope of Christians, it is a different hope than that Paul held out for the unrighteous, but the end is the same: Eternal life as part of the family of God.
So, to conclude, let us ask the question: Is it God’s will working in us when we say we don’t want to go to heaven? That we want to be on a paradise earth? Are we grieving the holy spirit when we focus on location and not on the role our Father wants us to play in the outworking of his purpose? Our heavenly Father has a job for us to do. He has called us out to do this work. Will we respond selflessly?
Hebrews tells us: “For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every transgression and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? This salvation was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard Him.” (Hebrews 2:2,3 BSB)
“Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think one deserves to be punished who has trampled on the Son of God, profaned the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and insulted the Spirit of grace?” (Hebrews 10:29 BSB)
Let us be careful not to insult the spirit of grace. If we want to fulfill our true, one and only Christian hope for salvation, we must do the will of our Father who is in the heavens, follow Jesus Christ, and be moved by the holy spirit to act in righteousness. The children of God have a strong commitment to follow our life-giving savior to paradise, the place God has prepared for us. It is really the condition of living forever…and requires all of what we are and want and hope. As Jesus told us in no uncertain terms “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26 NLT)
Thank you for your time and your support.