Were the saints to go there? What about others? What does it look like, in Heaven?
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Heaven is something central and important, for most believers – and still, many do not have a clear picture of what the biblical teaching regarding Heaven actually is.
In many churches, people are caused to think that when they die, they go either to Heaven or Hell. Some claim that there is a “purgatory” [a] where people are slowly cooked in fire and sulphur or something similar, for ages and ages, in order to be “cleansed”, before entering Heaven. More: In some other churches, people are caused to think that humans do not go to Heaven, and that even God will abandon his dwelling there and move to the planet Earth. And then, there are those who feel that the Bible shows that the saints were taken to Heaven, but that the situation is in certain ways different for most people of earlier and later times.
(“Saints”: Those who received the Holy Spirit in biblical times, first century CE or earlier.)
So, there are many kinds of dogmas and views in regard to the matter of Heaven. But, what counts, is what the Bible says. This article considers what the Scriptures tell us about Heaven.
Examples of questions that will considered: What does it look like, in Heaven? Were the saints to go there? What about others, including people of earlier and later times? And, what is meant by “third heaven” – what do the expressions “first heaven”, “second heaven” and “third heaven” actually refer to? The matter of the heavenly Jerusalem will also be studied here. Even some man-made dogmas concerning Heaven will be considered, including a number of anti-heaven teachings which some have spread.
a The word and concept as “purgatory” is not mentioned in the Scriptures.
The English word “heaven” comes from the Old English heofon which simply meant “sky”. Examples of word-use (Old English): Heofon-heáh, “sky-high”, heofon-fugol, “a bird of the air”. But heofon, just as its later form “heaven”, was also used as a reference to God’s dwelling “above”.
In the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, the most common word for “heaven” is the noun shamayim (Hebrew and Aramaic). In the Greek text of the New Testament, the corresponding word is ouranos. Just like the English word “heaven”, even shamayim and ouranos meant “sky” but were also used as a reference to God’s dwelling.
Sometimes, the Hebrew and Greek texts use a singular form, in translation “Heaven” (sky), and sometimes a plural form, “the Heavens” (the skies). Both of those expressions refer to God’s dwelling, “above”.
The word or concept “heaven” can be used in different ways – as a reference to the sky (the atmosphere) where the birds and the clouds are seen (which can be called “first heaven”), and as a reference to the more distant “heaven”, that is, the space where the sun, the moon and the stars are (and which can be called “second heaven”), and also, as a reference to the dwelling of God (“third heaven”).
As to the location of Heaven (God’s abode) – the simple facts are that we do not and cannot know where it is located.
Indeed, what is it like in the Heavens of God? Many people have been caused to think that Heaven is “ethereal”, “unreal”, “impossible to understand”, and so on. Some have even claimed that the Bible describes Heaven with tangible and clear terms, “only because humans could not understand how Heaven really is”. (By saying that, they actually claim that the Bible says things which are not true.)
So, what does Heaven look like? What do the Scriptures tell us about this?
In short: Heaven is a place which is in many ways similar to what we earthlings are used to. It has dimensions and time, and nature including trees with fruit that can be eaten, water and skies, and buildings. Several bible-passages make this clear.
We can safely assume that Heaven is a more beautiful place than the Earth, but again, several bible-passages show that Heaven is a place which is in many ways similar to what we are used to here on Earth. However, certain scriptures indicate that Heaven is made of some substance which is in some way different from the elements that our planet consists of.
A note: Several bible-passages show that there are created things in Heaven, and that some of the things there can grow (trees with fruit and so on). From this, we can deduce that things in Heaven are not “static” but can and do change. – This leads to the question, is Heaven God’s “highest level of existence”? Obviously not, because it is clear that even Heaven is something that he has made, created. This means that God existed before Heaven came into being. (And no, Heaven is not a “timeless” place; the Scriptures make this clear.)
But, as for more details – it would not be meaningful for us humans to try to figure out things that we have no first-hand information of, or to speculate about them. Already here on Earth, there are countless things that we humans do not know or understand. Not to mention Heaven and things there, or the nature of God who created both the Heavens and the Earth. So, the wisest thing for us is to simply study what the Scriptures tell us about God and Heaven, and then, for the time being, be satisfied with that information.
Another note: We can take it for granted that Heaven and things there, are just as “real” as earthly things, and not “ethereal”. Again, the Scriptures describe Heaven as a real and tangible place, with time and dimensions and many things that we would find familiar, such as trees, water, buildings, and so on.
It is clear that Heaven has a “heaven” – that is, skies. Consider this: The Scriptures tell us that there are trees in Heaven. Obviously, those trees do not grow in a cave, or in “nothingness”, but are rooted in a soil (ground, land), under an open sky (atmosphere).
A note: In the New Testament passages which refer to God’s Reign or Kingdom, the literal meaning of the relevant words in the Greek text is often “the Reign of God”, but some passages in the book of Matthew contain a wording which translates as “the Reign of the Heavens”.
Is the Kingdom or Reign of God the same as Heaven? The answer is both yes and no. God’s Reign is based in Heaven; its headquarters are there. But of course, there is much more to that Reign than just its heavenly headquarters.
Some writers have confused people by claiming that the Kingdom of God is merely something “in the hearts of men”. That concept is based on a misunderstanding in connection with Luke 17:21. The article noa010.htm sorts out that passage and matter.
Some other writers have caused people to believe that the Reign of God does not exist yet, except as some kind of an “embryo” in the form of some “church” here on Earth. But God’s Reign is not a mere “embryo”. Nor is it connected to churches. God’s Reign is based in Heaven, and, let us assume that that Reign (Kingdom) encompasses and controls this universe, including the spirit realm.
Psalms 103:19 The Lord has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything. (NLT04)
So, the Kingdom of God is not something that will be established at some “later time”. It exists, and we can assume that it has existed for times longer than we humans can even understand. And again, its headquarters are by the throne of God in Heaven. But: As of now, this planet which we call “Earth”, is in the hands of rebel spirits. Because of this, the Reign of Heaven (Reign of God) is not in effect here, at this present time. Instead, this world (planet) is run by the servants of a very different “god”. The good news regarding that matter is that in the future, the Reign of Heaven will come into effect even here on Earth. This will happen when Jesus returns and puts an end to the rule of the rebels who today run and control this planet. That time of liberation is something that all believers should be praying for.
The article noa010.htm has more on the Reign of Heaven which is also called the Reign of God (in many translations, “the Kingdom of God”).
The Scriptures indicate that the saints, after they had become immortals, were to assist Jesus and his Father in the administration of the Reign of the Heavens. Let us assume that that gives them enough work, without any problems with “too much leisure time”.
Now, Revelation 15 records that the apostle John saw a vision where some were standing in a glorious place in the Heavens of God (“as it were a sea of glass mixed with fire”), clothed in white, singing and playing string instruments. That probably refers to a special festive occasion of some kind. But again, Jesus’ disciples were to take part in the management of God’s Reign. We can take it for granted that singing and playing is not how they normally spend their time.
There are spirit beings who once were in Heaven but rebelled against God and were finally cast out from there, with no return.
It appears that those wicked beings (and their fleshly cronies) want humans to have an aversion against Heaven or to consider it to be something ridiculous or even negative. Those wicked ones broadcast their deceiving and ridiculing propaganda against the true God who is in Heaven, against his son Jesus, against the righteous angels, and against God’s holy dwelling in the Heavens. They use many kinds of means for spreading their deception (through fleshly agents): Comic strips, films and other media, “art”, stories, jokes, et cetera.
In a large part of those Heaven-related stories and jokes and so on, God the Father and his son Jesus, and the faithful angels, and God’s Heaven, are made to look ridiculous, powerless, unlikely to exist, strange, laughable, and so on.
Why is there such ridicule and antipathy against God’s holy dwelling? What’s so bad about that place? The answer: There is nothing bad about it. What is bad, is that the rebellious spirits who were thrown out from Heaven, cause humans to fail to understand the real nature and power of the Reign of Heaven. It appears that those wicked deceivers do whatever they can, in order to cause humans to either laugh at Heaven, or reject it as unimportant and uninteresting, or turn their backs on it for other reasons.
There are even churches whose dogmas claim that humans do not go to Heaven. In some of those churches, people have been caused to feel that it is almost shameful to even mention the word “Heaven”. – Some of the scriptures which anti-heaven preachers have used as “proof” for their dogmas, are considered and clarified in appendix 1 at the end of this article.
The apostle Paul wrote, apparently regarding himself:
2 Corinthians 12:1 Surely it is not expedient for me to boast: yet I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord. 2 I knew a man in Christ, above fourteen years ago (whether in the body I know not, or out of the body I know not; God knoweth) such an one caught up to the third heaven. 3 Yea, I knew such a man (whether in the body or out of the body, I know not, God knoweth) That he was caught up into paradise, 4 and heard unspeakable things, which it is not possible for man to utter. 5 Of such an one I will glory; but I will not glory of myself, unless in my infirmities. 6 For if I should resolve to boast, I should not be a fool; for I speak the truth: but I forbear, lest any one should think of me above what he seeth me, or heareth from me. (WES, highlighting added)
Several things indicate that Paul was talking about himself. Does this mean that he had been in Heaven? He wrote that he did not really know whether the visit to Heaven had been “in the body” or “out of the body”, verses 2–3, quoted above.
Even the apostle John saw things in Heaven. He saw a door open to Heaven and he was told, “come up here”, Revelation 4:1–2, and even other passages in the book of Revelation record visions where John saw persons, things and events in Heaven. In one vision, John saw the 144000, and then even the great multitude, by God’s throne in Heaven.
But, were Paul and John in Heaven in person (in whatever body or form), or were those things only visions? We do not know.
Galatians 4 records how the apostle Paul wrote about the “Jerusalem which is above”. Colossians 3 shows how he told the saints in Colosse to seek the things that are above, and that they were not to set their affection on things here on Earth.
But, some writers have claimed that the heavenly Jerusalem – a very large city in Heaven – is to be moved down to the planet Earth and be planted on its surface. Is that correct?
The Bible does not contain any such statement. It is only that people have been caused to read such a concept into the Bible. Consider this: It is obvious that in the vision where the apostle John saw the heavenly city “descending from the skies”, he stood on the ground of the heavenly land, and saw how that city came down there. The heavenly Jerusalem is indeed a heavenly city, and not an earthly one.
The measurements of that city, as recorded in the Bible, are huge. The Greek text of Revelation 21:16 tells us that that heavenly city is 12000 × 12000 stadion in size (around 2200 × 2200 kilometres). Such a huge city could not be placed in the earthly land of Israel – it is much larger than that country.
The passages in question are Revelation 3:12, 21:2 and 21:10. Let us consider verse 2 in chapter 21. – First, the Greek text, with phrase translations:
kai (and) [egô Iôannês eidon (I John, saw)] tên polin tên hagian (the holy city) Hierousalêm kainên (new Jerusalem) katabainousan (descending) apo tou Theou (from God) ek tou ouranou (out of the sky) hêtoimasmenên hôs numphên kekosmêmenên tô andri autês (prepared as a bride adorned for her husband)
In plain translation:
Revelation 21:2 And I, John, saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down, from God, out of the sky, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
To what place did John see that city descending, and from which skies? As far as we can see in the context, in that vision John was in Heaven – in the heavenly land, looking up to its heavenly skies. And, as he stood there, in Heaven, he saw that city which God had prepared, descending to the ground of that heavenly land, from its heavenly skies.
John called the heavenly city which he saw in that vision, “new”. Most probably, this meant that it was literally new: Not earlier inhabited but specially prepared as a place for the saints to live in. In Heaven.
Even Abraham looked forward to being in that city: “For he looked for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Hebrews 11:10). He, and other faithful people of old, were looking forward to a heavenly country. We read:
Hebrews 11:15 And truly if they remembered that from which they came out, they had time to return. 16 But now they stretch forth to a better, that is, a heavenly land. Therefore, God is not ashamed of them, for Him to be called their God; for He prepared a city for them. (LIT, highlighting added)
Casual bible-readers might come to think that the words “with men” in Revelation 21:3 mean that the heavenly Jerusalem will be placed here on Earth. But, it is not so. (Some translators have added to verse 3 the word “is” and made it to “is with men”, but the Greek text does not have any such word there.) Let us consider that passage.
Revelation 21:2 And I, John, saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of the heaven, prepared of God as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold the tabernacle [b] of God with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them and be their God. (JB, note sign added)
b The word “tabernacle” comes from the old Latin noun tabernaculum which meant “tent”. In the Greek NT text, the word in question is skênê which likewise meant “tent”. This is because the earthly sanctuary was at first a portable construction, like a large tent. In both the OT and the NT, the idiom “tent” is used of God’s dwelling. In the case of Revelation 21:2 it refers to God’s dwelling in Heaven.
Again, it is obvious that when the apostle John in that vision saw that city coming down from the skies, he stood on the ground of the heavenly land. It is a heavenly city, and not an earthly one. It appears that verse 3 simply means that the heavenly Jerusalem is a dwelling for both God and men. See even the last part of Revelation 7:15 which is quoted below.
This passage talks about a time when even the great multitude will be in Heaven:
Revelation 7:15 “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. 16 “They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; 17 “for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (NKJV)
(The article nta030.htm has some notes on the innumerable multitude and the 144000, and the difference between those two groups.)
Jesus told his disciples that he would go back to Heaven and prepare a place for them, and that after this, he would come and take them there. We read:
John 14:1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. You trust in God, trust in me also. 2 In my Father’s house there are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I went to prepare a place for you? 3 I will return and will take you to be with me, so that where I am you may be also. (CT)
(Some writers have claimed that John 14:2–3 supposedly refers to “spiritual offices” here on Earth. That matter is sorted out in appendix 1 at the end of this article.)
In the Roman empire of New Testament times, people had to be registered each in their “own” town.
The saints’ “own city” was (and is) the heavenly Jerusalem. That is why the apostle wrote that they were “registered in Heaven”.
Hebrews 12: […] 23 to the gathering and assembly of the firstborn who are registered in Heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made complete (VW06)
Some translations have “registered”, others have “enrolled” which means the same thing. (A side-note: Many bible-translators have put into Hebrews 12:23 wordings which make it seem that that verse refers to a “church”. But, it is not so. There is more on that passage, in appendix 2 at the end of this article.)
In a letter to the saints in Philippi, the apostle Paul noted that they were citizens of Heaven:
Philippians 3:20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (NKJV)
Regarding the above-quoted passage – the meaning of the words “from which we also eagerly wait” is that the saints were eagerly waiting for Jesus to come and fetch them. Fetch – to what place? To Heaven, just as he had promised.
(Appendix 2 has some notes on Hebrews 12. A closer study of [the Greek text of] that passage shows that the celebration of the New Covenant was to take place on the heavenly mount Zion.)
Jesus to his disciples:
Matthew 5:11 Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven […] (AKJV, highlighting added)
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust does corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal (AKJV, highlighting added)
Luke 6:22 Blessed are you, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. 23 Rejoice you in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers to the prophets. (AKJV, highlighting added)
The apostle Paul to the saints in Colosse:
Colossians 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (AKJV, highlighting added)
All New Testament verses that talk about Heaven, do not contain the word “heaven”. Thus, a casual bible-reader might miss certain things in that regard. As an example, let us consider this passage:
Hebrews 3:7 Wherefore,—according as saith the Holy Spirit—To-day if unto his voice ye would hearken, do not 8 harden your hearts,—as in the embitterment, in the day of testing in the desert, 9 When your fathers tested by proving, And saw my works forty years. […] 15 So long as it is said—To-day, if, unto his voice, ye would hearken, do not harden your hearts,—as in the embitterment. 16 For, who, though they heard, caused embitterment? Nay, indeed! did not all who come forth out of Egypt through Moses? 17 But with whom was he sore vexed forty years? Was it not with them who sinned, whose dead bodies fell in the desert? (EB)
That passage does not contain the word “Heaven”, and still, Heaven is the very core of it. Before going into the details, let us first consider the first verse in that chapter. Many translations do not make its meaning clear, but this one does:
Hebrews 3:1 And so, dear brothers and sisters who belong to God and are partners with those called to heaven […] (NLT04)
“Called to Heaven” – that is precisely what those people were. Now, let us consider the connection between Heaven and the above-quoted Hebrews 3:7–9 and 15–17.
The apostle was writing to “Hebrews”, which is to say, saints of Jewish descent. Chapter 3 records how he reminded them of what had happened to their ancestors. He urged them to be wiser than their ancestors had been. – This matter needs some clarification; read on.
Regarding the above-quoted Hebrews 3:7 and 8, the warning “do not harden your hearts, as in the embitterment, in the day of testing in the desert” – that refers to what is recorded in Numbers 13 and 14, an event in the days of Moses when the ancient Israelites rejected the earthly Promised Land and even the Lord who was taking them there. The result of that was that they were never allowed to enter that land. Instead, they had to stay in the Arabian desert until they died. The Lord swore that those people “would not enter his rest” (the Promised Land). [c] Only their children were allowed to enter the land of promise, forty years later.
c The meaning of the word “rest” in Hebrews 3:11, 18 and 19 and Hebrews 4:1, 3, 5, 8, 9 and 11 is easier to understand, if one knows that the earthly Promised Land was sometimes called “rest”, and if one keeps in mind that that earthly land was a type and shadow of a better Promised Land in Heaven. (Likewise, the earthly Paradise was a type and shadow of a Paradise in Heaven.)
Still regarding Hebrews 3: The Jewish saints whom the apostle was writing to, were to enter that better land, the one of Hebrews 11:16, in Heaven. Again, the apostle was urging those people to be wiser than their ancestors who rejected the earthly land and even the Lord who was about to take them there. In other words: The apostle was urging the Jewish saints not to reject the heavenly land or the Lord Jesus who was taking them there.
The article nxa100.htm has more on Hebrews 3 and 4, and clarifies the meaning of Hebrews 4:9 which also refers to Heaven even though many bible-translators have made this hard to see.
At the beginning of this article it was asked, were the saints to go to Heaven? And also, what about others?
Regarding the first of those questions: As was shown earlier in this article, the Scriptures make it clear that the saints were to go to Heaven. And also: The fact that those people inherited a land in Heaven, indicates that it was to be a permanent place of living for them.
But, what about others, such as people of our day?
What can make things a bit hard here, is that many people have been caused to read the Bible as if all the nice things the New Testament says about the saints and their destiny, would apply even to us who now 2000 years later read what was said to and regarding those people. – Let us face the facts: One does not become a saint, by reading about the saints. One must keep in mind that when the New Testament talks about saints, that refers to people who received the Holy Spirit in biblical times, first century CE or earlier. The article nga030.htm has more on this.
However, there is more to God’s “harvest work” here on Earth than just the first-fruits group of 144000 (Revelation 14) which was “reaped” in the first century. The book of Revelation shows that even the great, innumerable multitude will be in Heaven.
(Beyond that, there are all those people who belong neither to the 144000 nor to the great multitude. This is connected to the matter of the different resurrections. The article nba080.htm has some notes on that subject.)
A note: The huge group which often is called “the great multitude”, has not been formed yet. It may be that it will be formed during the work of the two witnesses.
See also the “recommended reading” section, after the appendixes below.
There are many kids of stories and “comics” and other things where God the Father and Jesus and the faithful angels and God’s Heaven are made to look ridiculous, powerless, unlikely to exist, strange, and so on. Those things have caused many people to consider Heaven as something laughable or dubious.
In addition to that, there are even churches which have as a main point in their dogmas a claim that humans do not go to Heaven. In some of those churches, people have been caused to feel that it is almost shameful to even mention the word “Heaven”. The following takes a closer look at some of the bible-passages which some writers have quoted as “proof” for their anti-heaven dogmas.
Some have quoted the words “the meek shall inherit the earth” which some bible-versions have in Psalms 37:11, and claimed that to “prove” that humans do not go to Heaven.
Some other translations have “the land”, instead of “the earth”.
Psalms 37:11 But the meek shall inherit the land, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace. (ACV)
A similar passage:
Matthew 5:5 Happy the meek; for they shall inherit the land! […] 12 Rejoice and exult, for great is your reward in heaven […] (LO)
Those who have studied the Scriptures in more depth, know that the saints were to inherit a land in Heaven. In a letter to certain saints, the apostle Peter wrote about their heavenly inheritance:
1 Peter 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy has begotten us again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you (AKJV, highlighting added)
Hebrews 11:15 If they had been remembering that land they came from, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But they now aspire to a better land—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (HCSB, highlighting added)
A note: Some have claimed Hebrews 11:16 to mean all kinds of things, instead of a land in Heaven. But, there is no way out of the fact that the word epouraniou (epouranious) in the Greek text of that verse specifically means “heavenly”, which is to say, something in Heaven. – Let us also read a passage in the apostle Paul’s letter to the saints in Colosse:
Colossians 3:1 If you then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. (AKJV, highlighting added)
Again, several scriptures make it clear that the saints were to go to Heaven. The article nxa100.htm considers one aspect of that matter.
Apparently, some writers have claimed that John 3:13 means that humans do not go to Heaven. Let us consider that passage and matter.
John 3:13 And no one has gone up into Heaven, except He having come down out of Heaven, the Son of Man who is in Heaven. (LIT)
What does that verse actually say? It only says that at the time when Jesus spoke those words, things were that way. The Bible shows that later, things changed.
Matthew 27:51 records that when Jesus gave his life in place of others, the separating curtain in the temple was torn in two. We read:
Matthew 27:50 Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. (NRSV)
That was a token and symbol of a dramatic change. Clarification: The word “curtain” in verse 51 refers to the thick curtain which separated the Holy of Holies with the Mercy Seat, from the rest of the temple. In the Old Covenant’s ritual, only the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies which was behind the curtain. But here, that separating curtain was torn apart.
The Holy of Holies (the inner sanctuary) in the earthly temple was a type and shadow, a symbol which pointed to God’s dwelling in Heaven. When Jesus made his Sacrifice by giving his life in place of others, the curtain which closed the entrance to the Holy of Holies, was torn in two. That symbolised the fact that the way to God’s dwelling in Heaven was now open for those who put their trust in his son Jesus (see even John 14:6) and received the Holy Spirit. That referred to actual, literal access to God’s holy dwelling in Heaven. Jesus went there as a “fore-runner”, see Hebrews 6:19–20, and he promised that he would prepare a place for his own, and that he would then come back and take them there. We read:
John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: have faith in God and have faith in me. 2 In my Father’s house are rooms enough; if it was not so, would I have said that I am going to make ready a place for you? 3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to be with me, so that you may be where I am. (BBE)
(There is more on that passage, a bit later in this appendix.)
Again, this was regarding the way to the Holy of Holies behind the separating curtain which then was torn in two. Hebrews 6 mentions that curtain. Verses 19 and 20 contain symbolic wordings which refer to the fact that Jesus entered Heaven as a “forerunner”. Later, many others would follow him there.
Hebrews 6:15 And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham obtained the promise. 16 For men swear by something greater than themselves, and for them a confirming oath ends every dispute. 17 Because God wanted to show His unchangeable purpose even more clearly to the heirs of the promise, He guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us. 19 We have this hope—like a sure and firm anchor of the soul—that enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner […] (HCSB, highlighting added)
Verse 19, “the inner sanctuary behind the curtain” – that is, the Holy of Holies. In the earthly sanctuary, that was a compartment which was separated by a thick curtain. But here, verses 19 and 20, the apostle referred to the true Holy of Holies, God’s dwelling in Heaven. That is where Jesus entered as a “forerunner”, verse 20. And, the saints were to follow him there.
A note: Some of those who spread anti-heaven dogmas, have claimed that the earlier quoted Matthew 27:50–51 merely means that people could now “pray” to God. That is nonsense. People were able to turn to God in prayer, a long time before the event of Matthew 27:50–51.
Some anti-heaven writers have claimed that John 14:2–3 refers to “spiritual offices” here on Earth, and not habitations as the Greek text says. Is that correct?
Background: This was during the so-called “last supper”. Jesus had told his disciples that he was going to his Father in Heaven. But, he also told them that they were not to be sad or worried, because he would come for them and take them there. Again, we read:
John 14:1 Let not your heart be troubled: have faith in God and have faith in me. 2 In my Father’s house are rooms enough; if it was not so, would I have said that I am going to make ready a place for you? 3 And if I go and make ready a place for you, I will come back again and will take you to be with me, so that you may be where I am. (BBE)
In verse 2, what the above-quoted BBE renders as “rooms”, is in the Greek text monai, plural of the noun monê which meant “a staying”, “an abiding”, “a dwelling”. (The noun monê was related to the verb menô which meant “to remain”, “to abide”.) More: What the BBE in verse 3 renders as “place”, is topos in the Greek text. The noun topos referred to such things as “a place”, “a room”, “a location”.
No translation or lexicon that this writer has seen, has rendered or defined monê or topos as “office” (in the meaning “spiritual office”). It is clear beyond question that in John 14:2–3, the words monê and topos refer to a dwelling place (in Heaven). Jesus was talking to the apostles, and promised them that they would live there.
Some have claimed or insinuated that Acts 2:29 somehow proves that king David would never go to Heaven. Let us consider that passage.
Acts 2:29 Men, brethren, I may speak to you explicitly of the patriarch David, that he died, and also was buried; and his sepulchre is with us to this day. (MUR)
(The context was that Peter was explaining to a number of Jewish people that it was Jesus who was their Saviour, and not David.)
So, king David had died and been buried, and his tomb still remained there as a witness of that. But, please note that Acts 2:29 does not say that David still remained in that tomb when Peter spoke those words, or that he would never go to Heaven. Keeping this in mind, let us consider verse 34.
Acts 2:34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ (NRSV)
So, when David died, he did not go to Heaven but was put in a tomb. But, that does not mean that he would never be raised up, or that he would never go to Heaven. Peter was merely explaining to the Jews that Jesus was their Saviour, and not king David.
Psalms 115:16 Heaven, even the heavens, are Jehovah’s; but the earth He has given to the sons of men. (VW06)
Anti-heaven writers might cite that verse and cause people to think that humans do not go to Heaven. But, several bible-passages make it clear that the saints were to go there.
That psalm-verse talks about “sons of men” – now, consider this: When the saints received the Holy Spirit, and especially when they were resurrected or changed, they became sons of God and a part of his family.
The below-quoted Exodus 24:7–11 records that when the Old Covenant had been made by Mount Sinai, a delegation of seventy-four men went up to the Lord on the mountain and saw him and ate and drank. Obviously, that was a celebration on the covenant which had just been made.
Exodus 24:7 And he took the book of the covenant, and read in the audience of the people: and they said, All that the Lord has said will we do, and be obedient. 8 And Moses took the blood, and sprinkled it on the people, and said, Behold the blood of the covenant, which the Lord has made with you concerning all these words. 9 Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: 10 And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. 11 And on the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. (AKJV)
(The context shows that in connection with the making of that covenant by Mount Sinai, the ground shook and there was fire and a loud trumpet sound. Keep this in mind, as you read on.)
The celebration of the New Covenant was to take place on a different mountain. Certain passages in the epistle to the Hebrews refer to this. In that letter, the apostle Paul reminded the Jewish saints about the past event by Mount Sinai, and then he moved on and wrote about the event and mountain which those saints were getting close to. Among other things, he wrote to them this:
Hebrews 12:18 For ye are not come unto the mount that is touched, and unto burning fire, [d] nor yet to mist and darkness and tempest of weather, 19 neither unto the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words: which voice they that heard it, wished away, that the communication should not be spoken to them. […] 22 But ye are come unto the mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the celestial Jerusalem: and to an innumerable sight of angels, 23 and unto the congregation of the first born sons, which are written in heaven, [e] and to God the judge of all, and to the spirits of Just and perfect men, 24 and to Jesus the mediator of the new testament, and to the sprinkling of blood that speaketh better than the blood of Abel. 25 See that ye despise not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not which refused him that spake on earth: [f] Much more shall we not escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: 26 whose voice then shook the earth, and now declareth saying: yet once more will I shake, not the earth only, but also heaven. 27 No doubt the same that he sayeth, yet once more, signifieth the removing away of those things which are shaken, as of things which have ended their course: that the things which are not shaken may remain. [g] 28 Wherefore if we receive a kingdom which is not moved, we have grace, whereby we may serve God and please him with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire. (TRC)
d Verse 18, “For ye are not come unto the mount that is touched, and unto burning fire” – this was a comparison with the events connected to the making of the Old Covenant by Mount Sinai. The saints whom the apostle was writing to, had instead come to (or “drawn near” as the meaning of the Greek text is) a different mountain, the one where the celebration of the New Covenant was to take place. That is, “mount Sion, and to the city of the living God, the celestial Jerusalem”, verse 22.
e Verse 23, “the congregation of the first born sons which are written in heaven” – the Greek wording is panêgurei kai ekklêsia prôtotokôn en ouranois apogegrammenôn, “the festal gathering and assembly of the first-born ones who have been registered in Heaven”. The old Greek noun ekklêsia simply meant “an assembly”. Regarding the first word in that passage, the noun panêgurei (panêguris) – here is how the OLB Greek lexicon defines it:
1) a festal gathering of the whole people to celebrate public games or other solemnities
2) a public festal assembly
Several things make it clear that in verse 23, the expression “the festal gathering and assembly of the first-born ones registered in Heaven” must have referred to the “marriage supper of the Lamb” – the New Covenant’s “wedding feast” which is mentioned even in Revelation 19:7.
f Verse 25, “which refused him that spake on earth” – this might refer to Exodus 20:19 which records how the ancient Israelites said to Moses, “speak you with us, and we will hear, but let not God speak with us, lest we die”. But, there was more to that matter. Some time later, those people in fact refused (rejected), not only the Lord who had spoken to them by the mountain but even the Promised Land where he was taking them. (See Numbers 14:1–4 with its context.) This led to that with the exception of two men, none of those Israelites who were of adult age when they left Egypt, were allowed to enter the Promised Land. It appears that the meaning of the above-quoted verse 25 is that the apostle was telling the Jewish saints that they were not to turn their backs on the Lord Jesus who was about to take them to the heavenly Promised Land.
g Verse 27 talks about “the removing away of those things which are shaken, as of things which have ended their course, that the things which are not shaken may remain”. The meaning of those words is not fully clear, but it is likely that just as the context, even verse 27 is regarding the two covenants, old and new. The Old Covenant had “ended its course”, but the New Covenant was to remain and be permanent. Cf. 2 Corinthians 3:11, “for if what was set aside came through glory, much more has the permanent come in glory!” (NRSV).
For the Jewish saints whom that letter was written to, the change or transfer (from old things to new) began when they became betrothed to Jesus. (This happened when they received the Holy Spirit.) Those people had been under the Old Covenant, but now they were under the New Covenant, and they had “come unto” (literally, “drawn near”) the heavenly mountain where the celebration of that covenant was to take place.
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Recommended reading here at the Bible Pages, on related as well as other matters
An explanation of the short names for the bible-translations that are quoted or mentioned at this site. → nsa090.htm
What is the Kingdom of God? Where is it located? Does it exist already, or is it only going to be established in the future? Or, is it merely something “in the hearts of men”? → noa010.htm
Who are the 144000 and the great multitude of Revelation 7? And, who are the first-fruits or virgins of Revelation 14:1–4? → nta030.htm
Hebrews 4:9, the sabbatismos or rest which the saints were to enter – a clarification of its actual nature. → nxa100.htm
What does the word “saint” mean and refer to, in the Bible? → nga030.htm
What does the Bible say about the matter of resurrection? → nba080.htm
What happened to the saints? Why is there no record of their doings, after the middle of the first century? → nga040.htm
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