Editor's note: We are continually seeking the truth in God's word. All content has suggestive conclusions. We recommend that all readers of this website search the scriptures for themselves and pray for understanding to prove or disprove all content.
God's Promise of an Inheritance
Note: If you are looking for easy answers and a quick summary of our conclusions, or are satisfied by the traditions of your religion, this document isn't for you. It is a lengthy and extremely complicated discussion of the hope of righteous mankind that is based on a Bible-wide consideration of scriptures, and it only presents some suggested conclusions. Its purpose is to broaden our minds and to illustrate the complexity of things that most religious people think they already understand. So, it requires an open mind and good powers of reasoning.
At Matthew 5:5 we read that Jesus said: ‘The meek are blest, for they will inherit the earth.' What does this mean?
First, let's take a look at the meaning of the word that Jesus used here, when he said inherit. The Greek word that he spoke means to receive by lot. The term reminds us of the way things were handled after the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Some types of ‘lots' were cast to determine which family would receive each portion of land in Israel as their inheritance. We don't know how this was done, but it was obviously a form of chance that allowed for Divine intervention.
So, some Bibles quote Jesus as saying ‘the meek will inherit the land' at Matthew 5:5 and Psalm 37:11, rather than ‘the earth.' And this can be correct, because the Greek word gen (pronounced gain) can correctly be translated as earth, land, or ground. Thus, Jesus was definitely speaking of ‘meek' people receiving an inheritance of land.
Notice how this point is emphasized at Isaiah 34:16, 17, which reads, ‘For God will command them and gather them with His Breath. He will cast lots for them with His hand and assign them pastures, [saying], You will inherit through the ages and rest there through all generations' (LXX).
And again at Proverbs 2:20-22, ‘But smooth are the roads that the righteous have found, for the meek will inherit the earth, and the honest will be those left behind. Then the upright will camp in the land, and those who'll remain are the holy. But the ways of the disrespectful will be gone from the land, and those who break laws will be banished.'
And again at Isaiah 57:13, ‘But those who stick with Me will own the earth (land) and inherit My holy mountain.'
And again at Isaiah 60:21, ‘Your people will all be righteous and they'll inherit the earth (land) through the ages.'
So, the inference at Matthew 5:5 is that ‘the meek' will inherit their own land, which will be assigned in a ‘lottery,' not arbitrarily.
However, at Matthew 5:3, Jesus had just said, ‘The spiritually impoverished are blest, because the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.' So, what is the ‘inheritance' of righteous mankind; is it to live here on the earth, or to live in heaven with God and Jesus? Also; was Jesus really speaking of the hopes of two (or more) different groups here, or was he speaking of the common inheritances of all the righteous?
Keeping an Open Mind
Although it would seem as though the hope of righteous mankind should be so obvious that it needs no discussion, we have found that the more we learn, the less we know to be absolute fact. And although all religions seem to have reached their own conclusions about the destiny or destinies that God promised, too many scriptures contradict the common teachings. So, what we will present here is not doctrine or absolute truth, but what the scriptures say, along with some suggested conclusions.
The Promise to ‘the Sheep'
Almost all Bible references agree that what Jesus said at Matthew 5:5 was a direct quotation of the words of David found at Psalm 37:11. But to provide you some frame of reference, let's also consider verses 10, 28, 29, which say: ‘In just a short time the sinners will be gone; you'll look where he was and not find him. But the meek will inherit the earth and find great delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous will always be guarded, but those without law will be driven away. The seed of the Godless will be done away with, but the righteous will inherit the earth and live there through ages of ages.' (In Greek this reads δικαιοι δε κληρονομησουσι γην και κατασκηνωσουσιν εις αιωνα αιωνος επ' αυτης, or, the/righteous but inherit the/land and camp into ages of/ages upon it).
So, these verses indicate that those who ‘inherit the earth (or land)' will also ‘live on the earth for ages of ages.' As the result, we would have to conclude that ‘the meek' who ‘inherit the earth' will live here on their own piece of ground through ‘ages of ages.'
Then notice how this idea dovetails with Jesus' words at Matt 25:34-36 (where he was talking about ‘the last days' and the separating of ‘the sheep and the goats'); for when he was talking about the reward for ‘the sheep' (in Matthew 25:34-36), Jesus said, ‘Then the king will tell those on his right, Come, you who have been praised by my Father, inherit the Kingdom that has been prepared for you from the founding of the world.'
Notice that the promise to ‘the sheep' was that they would ‘inherit the Kingdom,' because they had done good things for Jesus' brothers. Yet, it appears as though the ‘sheep' that Jesus spoke of don't receive a heavenly inheritance, because they are being separated from ‘the goats,' which are obviously here on the earth; and thereafter, there is no mention of the sheep being taken to heaven.
However, there does seem to be a Biblical contradiction to the thought that the ‘sheep' that ‘inherit the Kingdom' will inherit land on the earth. For, notice the words of Paul that are found at 1 Corinthians 15:49-54, ‘So, just as we've worn the image of the one who was made from the dust, we will also wear the image of the Heavenly One. I tell you this, brothers: Flesh and blood cannot inherit God's Kingdom, nor can [something that's] decaying inherit cleanliness. Look, I tell you a mystery: Not all of us will be laid to rest, but we will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, during the last trumpet. The trumpet will blow and the dead will be raised clean, and we will be changed. Then that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility, and that which is dying will put on immortality. But, when that which is dying puts on immortality, then the words that were written are fulfilled, Death is swallowed in victory.'
Where is the contradiction? Well, these words of Paul (that Christians will ‘wear the image of the holy one,' that they will be instantly ‘changed,' and that they will ‘put on immortality (gr. athanasia)') have always been thought of as providing conclusive proof that those who Paul was addressing were being promised life in heaven. But if so, then the ‘sheep' of Matthew 25:34-36 must also have a heavenly calling, for as Paul said, ‘Flesh and blood cannot inherit God's Kingdom.' So, the sheep cannot possibly inherit the Kingdom as flesh-and-blood, if Paul was talking about a heavenly hope at First Corinthians Chapter Fifteen.
Could it be that Paul was writing about something other than a heavenly resurrection at 1 Corinthians 15:35-54?
The Possible Meaning of 1 Corinthians 15:35-54
While not being dogmatic, let's take another look at what Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 15:35-54, to see if those scriptures could have a meaning other than people being resurrected as spirits into heaven: Notice Paul's words at 1 Corinthians 15:42-44: ‘And that's how the resurrection of the dead is. It's planted in a decaying condition and it's raised clean. It's planted without honor, but it's raised in glory. It's planted as weak, but it's raised in power. It's planted as a human body, but it's raised a spiritual body... so if there's a human body, there's also a spiritual one. As it is written: ‘The first man (Adam) became a living soul,' but the last Adam became a life-giving spirit..' So, isn't Paul saying that humans will be resurrected as breaths (or spirits) here? Well, let's look at the words that we have translated as human body in this scripture. The Greek words are soma psychikon, or body soulical, which we have translated as spiritual body (not spirit body), for the words there mean the body of the inner person.
So, what the words imply is that the thing which dies is the imperfect (fleshly) person, and it will be resurrected not as a spirit, but in the perfect body of a spiritual person. That this is the correct understanding is verified by what Paul had just said (at 1 Corinthians 15:42), ‘It is planted in a decaying condition and it is raised clean.' So, the faithful are resurrected clean and spiritual... not in a decaying or aging condition. They will no longer be living as fleshly people, but as spiritual people. However, something even greater may be implied here.
For example, notice how Paul's words, ‘ The dead will be raised clean,' and ‘Death is swallowed in victory,' match with the promise of an earthly resurrection found at Revelation 20:13, 14, where we read, ‘Death and the grave gave up those dead in them, and ‘Death and the grave were thrown into the lake of fire.'
Notice what Paul wrote just a few verses earlier (in 1 Corinthians 15:35-38), ‘Now, some [are sure to] ask, Just how will the dead be raised?
What kind of bodies will they return in? You senseless person! Those who plant [seeds] know that the [seeds] can't live unless they die first. And what you are planting isn't the body that it's going to become - it is just a naked grain of wheat, or whatever. God will give it whatever body He wishes, the same as He gives each seed its body.'
What was Paul saying here? He was saying that the types of bodies we will receive won't be known until the resurrection.
Bearing ‘the Image of the Holy One'
But, how would it be possible for humans (as Paul said) to ‘bear the image of the Holy One?' Don't those words imply that faithful humans will be given bodies like God and live in the heavens?
Well, notice the words that were once used to describe Adam, as found at Genesis 1:27 (LXX), ‘So, God made man. He made him in the image of God.'
As you can see, Adam started out by bearing the image of the Holy One (God) as a human here on the earth. And he lost this image for future generations by his sin in Eden. So, it appears as though ‘bearing the image of the Holy One' is a gift that men will regain here on the earth. However, Paul's words (that the faithful dead will be ‘raised as a spiritual body') seem to imply that the faithful will be raised as something we have never known before, with a type of spirituality and life that is much greater than anything most of us have conceived.
Sons of God
Then the question arises, ‘Aren't just those who are chosen for heavenly life the sons of God?' Well, notice what Paul wrote about who the true sons of God are:
Galatians 3:26-29, ‘The fact is; You're all sons of God because of your faith in the Anointed Jesus. All who were baptized into the Anointed One have put on the Anointed One. So, there aren't any Jews or Greeks, slaves or freemen, males or females, because you're all united in the Anointed Jesus. And if you're [part] of the Anointed One, you're really the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise.'
Romans 8:11-14, ‘Now, if the Breath of the One who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, He who raised the Anointed Jesus from the dead will also make your dying bodies alive through His Breath that's in you. So brothers, while we're in the flesh, it's our duty not to follow the ways of the flesh, for if we follow fleshly ways we'll be [counted among] the dead. So, we must use [God's] Breath to kill the practices of the body, so we can have life. For, all who are led by God's Breath are God's sons. You didn't receive His Breath to make yourselves slaves to fear again, for when you received it, it adopted you as His sons.
So, it's by this Breath that we can call out, Papa... Father! It's the same Breath that testifies to the spirit in us that we're God's children. So, if we're [His] children, we're also [His] heirs. Yes, heirs of God and heirs with the Anointed One. However, we'll have to suffer together so we can be glorified together.'
Then John wrote a 1 John 5:1, ‘Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Anointed One has been fathered by God.'
So, regardless of what some may teach; According to Paul:
If we have faith in Jesus, we are God's sons
When we are baptized into Jesus, we become the seed of Abraham and heirs of the promise
If we have God's Breath (Spirit) we are no longer considered as being among the dead
All who are led by God's Breath are God's sons.
Editor's note: We will need to repent of our past or present sins and obey what Jesus taught. We must be doers of the
law and not just hearers of the law..
Are there any that claim to be Christians who would deny faith in Jesus... who aren't baptized into him... who don't claim to have God's Breath, and who say that aren't being led by it? We would hope not.
But then, these easy answers raise some other thorny problems. For example, notice what Jesus said about sons of God at Luke 20:34-36: ‘The sons of this age marry and are married, but those who have been found worthy of that age and the resurrection from the dead don't marry, nor do they get married. And they can't die anymore, for they are equal to [God's] messengers, because they are [also] sons of God, since they are sons of the resurrection.'
So, just who was Jesus talking about here? Notice that they are ‘sons of the resurrection' (they are resurrected), but then they are described as being ‘equal to' the messengers of God (the angels). Does this mean that they will receive life as a heavenly spirit creatures?
The Sequence Problem of Revelation 19, 20
Notice that there is a problem with the timeframe mentioned by Paul... when ‘the trumpet' blows and ‘the dead' are raised.' For, according to the sequence of events that is outlined in Revelation Chapters Nineteen and Twenty, this is what happens:
1. Revelation 19:7, 8: ‘Let's rejoice, shout in joy, and glorify Him, because it's time for the Lamb's wedding! His bride has prepared herself, and she was found worthy to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen. This fine linen represents the righteous actions of the Holy Ones.'
2. Revelation 19:19: ‘Then I saw the wild animal, along with the kings of the earth and their armies, all gathered together to go to war against the one who was sitting on the [white] horse and his army.'
3. Revelation 20:1: ‘Then I saw a messenger come down from heaven with a long chain in his hand and the key to the pit. And he grabbed the dragon - the original snake, the Slanderer and Opposer - and chained him up for a thousand years.'
4. Revelation 20:4, 5: ‘And I saw thrones... and those who sat down on them were the ones who had been executed with axes for testifying about Jesus and for telling about God, and who hadn't worshiped the wild animal or its image, and who hadn't received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands. Then they were appointed judges, and they came to life and ruled as kings with the Anointed One for a thousand years ... This is the first resurrection.'
Notice that in this sequence of events, ‘the dead' are raised after the ‘marriage of the Lamb,' after the Battle of Armageddon, and after the Slanderer is chained! So, since it is generally assumed that the Lamb's bride pictures those who will rule with Jesus in heaven, we must ask: Does the joining of Jesus with his bride come before the first resurrection? And; Aren't those who are raised in the first resurrection the same as the Lamb's bride?
Well, consider just who (as the Revelation tells us) are those who hadn't ‘worshiped the wild animal or its image, and hadn't received the mark on their foreheads and on their hands.' Notice how they are described at Revelation 14:9-10, which says: ‘Then another messenger - a third one - followed him, shouting aloud, If anyone worships the wild animal and its image and they receive a mark on their foreheads or on their hands, they will also have to drink the pure wine of God's rage that's being poured into the cup of His rage.'
So, ALL who would survive God's wrath must meet the test of not worshiping the wild beast or its image, or receiving its mark. Thus; if the first resurrection is for all those who don't receive the mark, it must refer to a general resurrection of the righteous.
There's also another prophecy that seems to parallel the sequence of events as outlined in Revelation Chapters Nineteen and Twenty; it was told by Jesus at Matthew 25:1-13 (the Parable of the Ten Virgins).
The Parable of the Ten Virgins
In this parable there were ten virgins who were awaiting the arrival of the bridegroom, five of whom proved wise, and the five others were termed in Greek as moros, or those who knew what they should do but just didn't care. Then the wise virgins were invited to attend the Lord's wedding banquet (because they were spiritually awake and ready), but the moros were just locked outside.
Now, notice the similarities:
1. At Revelation 19:6-9 we are told that; when ‘Our God the Almighty' has started ruling as king,' it was ‘time for the Lamb's wedding.' Then John was told to write: ‘Those who are invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet are blest.'
2. Then, according to the Aramaic Targums, Matthew 25:1 says: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom and his bride,' which we believe is correct, because Jewish custom would first have the bridegroom go to the bride's home to accept her from her parents (the wedding), and then they would travel together to meet the guests (described as the virgins here) who would attend their wedding banquet.
So, notice that those who are invited to the Lamb's wedding banquet are not the bride!
Then; Who is ‘the Bride?'
We read at Revelation 19:7, 8: ‘His bride has prepared herself, and she was found worthy to be dressed in bright, clean, fine linen; for the fine linen represents the righteous actions of the Holy Ones.'
So, we must assume that these Holy Ones are very righteous people who have been specially chosen to be (possibly) in heaven with Jesus as his bride. Such Holy Ones are mentioned at Acts 9:13, for example, where we read (when speaking of Paul): ‘Lord, I've heard about this man from many people, and of all the bad things he did to your Holy Ones in Jerusalem.'
From these words, we must conclude that there were Holy Ones living in Jerusalem at the time, which obviously included the remaining Apostles of the Lamb.
Another description of the Lamb's bride is found at Revelation 21:9-17, ‘Come here! I'll show you the bride... the Lamb's wife ... And there he showed me Jerusalem, the Holy City, coming down out of heaven from God ... The city wall also had twelve foundation stones, and the names of the twelve Apostles of the Lamb were written on them ... He also measured its wall's [thickness], and it was the length of a man's forearm (which is about the same for a messenger [of God]), times one hundred and forty-four.'
So the words of this prophecy indicate that the Lamb's bride comprises a heavenly holy city called Jerusalem (the governing city of Israel); it is led by the twelve Apostles of the Lamb; and the number of its measurements equal one hundred and forty-four... and that sounds very similar to the words of Revelation 7:4, which reads: ‘And I heard how many of them had been sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand from among every tribe of the sons of Israel.'
Editor's note: How pompous many are to believe that the path into heaven can be attained by anyone! Even those who understand many of God's ways have no idea what is required to be called into heaven. Will the path be any different than the one Jesus' apostles took? ( all suffered great persecution and most experienced terrible deaths ), Many followers of Jesus were thrown into the arena with lions and many were burned at the stake during the dark ages for belief in the way of God! Should the path of those who expect to be in heaven with The Father and Son be any different?
When Does the Wedding Banquet Take Place?
Notice that we are told when the Lord's wedding banquet takes place at Revelation 19:6, 7, where it says: ‘Then I heard what sounded like the voices of a huge crowd, along with the noise of a lot of water and heavy thunder. They shouted, Praise Jah, because the Lord our God the Almighty has started ruling as king! Let's rejoice, shout in joy, and glorify Him, because it's time for the Lamb's wedding!'
So, the wedding banquet begins, and the wise virgins are invited inside, immediately after it can be said that ‘Our God the Almighty has started ruling as king.' When will this happen? Revelation 12:10 says: ‘This is the moment when the salvation, the power, the Kingdom of our God, and the authorization of his Anointed One begins. Because the one who has been accusing our brothers has been thrown down... the one who has been complaining about them day and night before our God!'
Thus, from the above; this seems to be the sequence of events as outlined in the Bible:
1. First comes the period of Jesus' being near (world wars, famines, plagues, and natural disasters) - Matthew 24:4-14
2. The disgusting destroyer is found standing in the Holy Place and Christians flee to the mountains - Matthew 24:15
3. The great time of difficulty begins - Matthew 24:10-22
4. The Great Babylon is destroyed - Revelation Chapter Eighteen
5. The Slanderer is cast out of Heaven - Revelation 12:7-9
6. God's Kingdom begins - Revelation 12:10-12
7. A sign is seen in the sky indicating the coming of Jesus - Matthew 24:29, 30 and Mark 13:24-27
8. The elected (the bride) will be collected from the four winds - Matthew 24:31
9. Jesus arrives with his bride and invites those who he finds faithful and wise (the virgins) inside the wedding banquet - Matthew 25:1-13.
And after this wedding banquet:
1. The Battle of Armageddon (the war against the kings and their armies who attacked the Great Babylon and now turn against God's people) begins - Revelation 19:11-21
2. The Slanderer and his demons are chained - Revelation 20:1-3
3. God's Kingdom is restored - Revelation 20:4
The Contradiction of 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
At 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, we read the following words that were offered as comfort to those grieving the loss of loved ones, by Paul: ‘Brothers, we want you to understand the situation of those who are sleeping [in death], so you aren't saddened (as are those who have no hope). If we believe that Jesus died and was resurrected, then God (through Jesus) will assemble all those who have fallen asleep [in death] to Him. This is what we are telling you, which is the word of the Lord: We the living who have remained until the Lord is near, definitely won't go ahead of those who are asleep [in death]. Because, the Lord himself will come down from heaven and give the command in the voice of the highest messenger [of God] and with God's trumpet. Then those who are dead in union with the Anointed One will stand up first. And we the living who remain will be snatched away with them at that time in clouds, for an assembly with the Lord in the air, so we will always be with the Lord. Keep comforting each other with these words.'
Notice that Paul was optimistically assuming that; Perhaps many to whom he was writing would live to see the time of the nearness (gr. parousia) of the Lord (Jesus). Then their dead loved ones would stand up (gr. anastesontai) first, and the remaining ones would be snatched away (gr. harpagesometha, or, raptured) in clouds (similar to what happened to EliJah and Jesus) for an assembly (gr. apantesin) with the Lord in the air (gr. area), so they would (all) always be with the Lord.
This raises the question: Was Paul speaking about the raising (or rapturing) of the bride, or of the inviting of faithful slaves or virgins to the wedding banquet of the Lamb?
Well, first notice that the dead loved ones aren't resurrected into heaven, because the Lord comes down from heaven to the vicinity of the earth. Then those who are snatched away are called (along with the now standing loved ones) to the assembly (or a gathering from many directions) with the Lord in the earth's atmosphere (air). So, although the snatching away suggests the taking of the bride, this meeting is not in the heavenly presence of God, but it occurs in the direct vicinity of the earth. And although the faithful are not thereafter spoken of as being taken to heaven, they will always be with the Lord (gr. pantote syn Kyrio esmethetha, or, always together Lord we/shall/be).
Also, notice that the words ‘Then those who are dead in union with the Anointed One will stand up first' could also be translated as ‘Then those who are dead in union with the Anointed One will be resurrected first,' which implies the first resurrection. And remember who Jesus said would be in union with or one with him, in his final prayer with his Apostles at John 17:21, 22: ‘Also, I'm not just asking for just these; [I'm asking that] all who say they believe may be one (just as You Father, are in me, and I'm in You), that they can also be in us, so the world can believe that You sent me.'
So, perhaps 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 is speaking of attending the Lamb's wedding banquet, not as the bride, but as honored guests, here in the vicinity of the earth. And if this is the correct understanding, then the Lord Jesus will from that time onward remain close to all his faithful slaves who will then serve as ‘kings over cities' and ‘priests' here on the earth.
What is the Meaning of Resurrection?
But, when the elected are called from the four winds, isn't that the First Resurrection? No, for the Greek word that is translated resurrection is anastasia, which simply means to stand erect (as a man) once again. It does not imply being taken as a spirit into heaven!
But, wasn't Jesus resurrected into heaven? No, he was resurrected on the earth.
But, wasn't Jesus resurrected as a spirit? The truth is; we don't really know what form he took at his resurrection. We know that his body wasn't found in the tomb, and that he appeared in human bodies several times before being taken (not resurrected) into heaven. But after being taken to heaven, logic dictates that he must have been spirit.
What we do know about Jesus is that; in the period between his resurrection and his being taken into heaven, he had unique spiritual powers. Could these be the same unique spiritual powers that the faithful in the first resurrection will receive? Possibly.
The ‘Large Crowd'
A Bible Chapter that is usually simply rejected and ignored by most (due to the fact that it is a favorite of a particular religious group) is Revelation Seven. However, to understand the meaning of the inheritance better, and to determine whether that promise refers to life in heaven and/or on the earth, we must consider this important Bible prophecy, because the answer is found there.
Notice that Revelation 7:9, 10 reads, ‘After all this, I saw a crowd so large that nobody could count them. They came from all countries, nationalities, ethnic groups, and languages; and they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were all wearing white robes, they carried palm branches in their hands, and they were shouting, We owe our salvation to our God who is sitting on the throne, and to the Lamb.'
Who does this group represent, and what is their hope? We find the answer at Revelation 7:13-17, which says, ‘Then one of the older men asked me, Just who are these that are dressed in the white robes and where did they come from? And I replied, My lord, you're the one who knows. Then he told me, They are the ones that have come out of the great time of difficulty. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. That is why they are in front of the throne of God and worshiping him day and night in his Temple. He who is sitting on the throne will spread His tent over them. They won't be hungry or thirsty anymore, and the sun won't beat down on them with blistering heat, because the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them. He will guide them to the fountains of waters of life, and God will wipe all the tears from their eyes.'
Now, notice some specific features of this prophesy that help us to understand who they are and what their hope is. First, they are seen standing in front of God's throne; they aren't seen sitting on thrones, as are those who are promised life in heaven (see Luke 22:30). Second, they ‘come out of the time of great difficulty' (that Jesus spoke of at Matthew 24:21), and they aren't raised to life in heaven; rather, they are ‘[guided] to the fountains of the waters of life.'
Also notice that this large crowd is seen after (and appears to be distinct from) the 144,000, who we suspect represent the elected Holy Ones who God takes to heaven, and the faithful Twelve Tribes of Israel, who appear to be the same as God's faithful slaves and wise virgins. So, it could be that this ‘large crowd' is the same as the group that Jesus referred to as ‘the sheep' who are separated from ‘the goats' (in Matthew 25), and that their hope is to live upon and ‘inherit the earth,' and to ‘inherit the Kingdom.'
The ‘Other Sheep'
Then, are those who will inherit the earth also the ‘other sheep' that Jesus spoke of at John 10:16, when he said, ‘And I have other sheep that aren't in this pen. I must also lead them and they will listen to my voice, and they will [all] become one flock under one shepherd?'
Not necessarily, for notice who Jesus was speaking to (John 9:40): ‘But when some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this, they asked, We aren't blind also, are we?'
And although this setting is followed by a paragraph break (which was added a century or more later), Jesus then went on to speak to them as a pen of worshipers of God, to whom another pen of sheep would thereafter be added. So, Jesus was referring to the Pharisees and others of Israel when he spoke of the sheep in his first pen, thus he was obviously talking about the coming acceptance of Gentiles as God's worshipers. And while some have argued that if this were true, it would mean that the Gentiles had to become one with the Jews who were under the Law of Moses, these words could also mean that Gentiles would be offered the opportunity to join with the Jews in the New Sacred Agreement, for that was what he was offering to them at that time.
So, Jesus' words don't appear to refer to an earthly class joining with those who have a heavenly calling, as some believe. Nor do any of the words or instructions of the Christian Era Scriptures (‘New Testament') seem to be directed to just those with a special heavenly hope. Rather, it appears as though all true Christians are considered part of the same flock (of Jews and gentiles), and whether their resurrection will be earthly, or they are called directly into heaven, depends on the outcome of their lives, the persecution they are to endure, and whether God chooses them to heavenly life.
The Kingdom of Heaven
At Matthew 11:12 Jesus said, ‘From the time that John [started baptizing] until now, the Kingdom of the Heavens has been the goal that men have been reaching for... and those who keep on reaching will catch it.'
So, wasn't Jesus saying that men had been reaching out to go to heaven as kings since the time of John? Not necessarily, because the term Kingdom of Heaven was just Matthew's choice of words. We find Luke quoting Jesus as calling it ‘the Kingdom of God' throughout his Gospel. And although these word choices aren't that different, realize that reaching for the Kingdom of God doesn't necessarily mean that they will to go to heaven. Rather, it can mean that men were just trying to reach salvation in God's Kingdom or the Kingdom of Heaven.
And what does history show to have been the case? You'll find most historians agreeing that the faithful Jews were looking for the removal of Roman domination and the earthly reestablishment of God's Kingdom of Israel on earth, restoring the line of Davidic kings. But, is this what his Apostles believed?
Well, that was the subject of their question to Jesus shortly before his ascension to heaven, for they asked (at Acts 1:6) ‘Lord, are you going to return the Kingdom to Israel now?'
So, the many references to the Kingdom of Heaven (or the Heavens) and people reaching out for it, don't necessarily mean that Christians hoped for, or were promised to go to heaven after their deaths. Rather, they understood it to mean there would be an earthly Kingdom that was under the rule of the Heavens.
The Heavenly Reward
Yet, there does still seem to be a group of people who have a heavenly (or a separate) calling, because Jesus spoke of some people being called to heaven prior to the separating of the sheep and goats. For, notice how Paul described the special hope that he was striving to reach at Philippians 3:12-14. ‘[I'm not saying] that I've made it yet or that I'm already perfect, just that I'm chasing after it - I'm trying to grab hold of that for which the Anointed One Jesus grabbed hold of me. Brothers, I don't think of myself as having achieved it, but I am doing this one thing: [I'm] forgetting the things in the past and stretching out to reach for the things that are ahead. I'm running toward the goal, the prize of the upward calling from God, through the Anointed One Jesus.'
So, can we assume from this that Paul was reaching out for an ‘upward' calling to heaven?
And we find Paul speaking of this hope at 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2, where he wrote, ‘This is because we know that whenever our earthly house (this tent) is done away with, we have a building from God that lasts through the age... it's a house in the heavens that isn't made with hands. We groan over this, because we long to put on that house from heaven.'
Also, Paul did seem to be speaking of more than one type of destination at 1 Corinthians 15:35-38, where he wrote, ‘Now, some [are sure to] ask, Just how will the dead then be raised? What kind of bodies will they return in? You senseless person! Those who plant [seeds] know that they can't live unless they die first. And what you're planting isn't the body that it's going to become; it's just a naked grain of wheat, or whatever. And God will give it whatever [type of] body He wishes, just as He gives each seed its body.'
However, it's the description of another group that is discussed in Revelation Chapter Seven, which appears to speak of people receiving the reward of life in heaven as kings and priests. But it's a scripture that most people find hard to accept at face value.
This scripture is Revelation 7:1-3, where we read, ‘After this, I saw four messengers who were standing at the four corners of the earth. They were hanging onto the four winds of the earth so the winds wouldn't blow on the earth, the sea, or the trees. Then I saw another messenger who was coming up from the sunrise. He had the seal of the living God and he shouted aloud to the four messengers who were allowed to harm the earth and sea, saying, Don't harm the earth, the sea, or the trees, until after we have sealed the slaves of our God in their foreheads. And I heard how many of them had been sealed: a hundred and forty-four thousand from every tribe of the sons of Israel.'
Is this 144,000 a symbolic or a literal number, and is their hope life in heaven?
Well, a second scripture mentions this same number. It's found at Revelation 14:1-5, where we read, ‘Then I saw the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads. And I heard noise coming from heaven that sounded like a lot of water and loud thunder. Well, the sound that I heard was that of people who were all playing harps and singing. They were singing a new song in front of the throne and in front of the four animals and the old men. And nobody could learn that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand who were purchased from the earth. These didn't dirty themselves with women. In fact, they are virgins who keep following the Lamb no matter where he goes. They were bought from mankind [and offered] as the first fruitage to God and to the Lamb. No lies are found in their mouths and they don't have any defects.'
The keys to understanding what this group represents and what their hope is, are the words, ‘[they] were purchased from the earth,' ‘they were bought from mankind,' and they are offered as ‘the first fruitage to God and to the Lamb.' Obviously, they are taken to heaven, they are no longer ‘mankind,' and they are a small group, because they're just the ‘first fruitage.' This is interesting, because the Law that God gave to Moses demanded that all the first fruitage of the Israelite's crops, animals, and children were to belong to (or be offered to) God. So, perhaps we should look at portions of that ancient Law to see what parallels it can provide.
Parallels of Ancient Israel
Recently, as the result of translating the Bible books of Leviticus and Numbers, we noticed some interesting parallels among the people who were first promised an inheritance, the children of Israel. We know that many of the events and Laws having to do with the pure worship of God in ancient Israel picture what will happen in the future, for Paul pointed this out throughout the Bible book of Hebrews.
The particular Laws that we noticed and focused on were those having to do with the establishment of the priesthood in Israel. Surely, these Laws must have significance when it comes to the inheritance, because the promise to the righteous in Revelation was that they would serve God as ‘kings and priests' - and here we find the first laws that showed what position the ancient priests were to hold.
‘Types' and ‘Antitypes'
Modern Bible scholars have chosen to use the words ‘type' when speaking of the first symbolic Law or event, and ‘antitype' when speaking of a greater fulfillment of that Law or event), to make a connection between the things described in the Ancient Scriptures of Israel and events in Jesus' day... and then again with events having to do with our hope of inheriting the Kingdom today.
While it's true that all in the tribe of Levi were priests, those who were referred to as the Priests (note that we differentiate these special Priests with a capital P) came from just the lines of Aaron. In fact, as the father and firstborn of that line, Aaron, was the ‘type' that pictured Jesus, God's High Priest in heaven (the ‘antitype'). This is because Aaron was spoken of as ‘the anointed' (or as that word means, ‘the christ') and he was made ‘perfect' (see Leviticus 4:5 as an example).
It's interesting that Moses, who descended from the same father as Aaron, was also a ‘type' picturing Jesus, in Jesus' other role as the mediator of the Sacred Agreement and the Leader of God's people. So, the two together (Moses and Aaron) pictured Jesus in each of his roles. In fact, their sister, the Prophetess Miriam, may have also pictured Jesus in his position of being a Prophet, since she was the descendant of the same father as Moses and Aaron.
And by the way, Moses' descendants by his two sons Gersam and EliEzer were also counted among the family line of Aaron as ‘anointed' Priests (see 1 Chronicles 23:14). So, the two (or three) represented a single group.
Priests That Were Also ‘Types' of Heavenly Life
So, where does the promise of an ‘inheritance' tie into this scenario? Well, apparently Moses and Aaron (and possibly Miriam) were the only ones to picture Jesus. But the position of Anointed Priest was also given to Aaron's and Moses' sons and to many of their descendants. For we read at Exodus 28:37, ‘Then you must dress your brother Aaron and his sons, and anoint them [with oil]. Empower them and make them holy, so they can serve Me as Priests.'
As you can see, others were selected, anointed, and made holy who may not have pictured Jesus, for they served alongside the High Priest (Aaron).
What was so special about this priestly position that they had to be ‘anointed?' Well, once each year (just on the Day of Atonement), the High Priest had the privilege of entering the Most Holy place where the Chest of Proofs was kept, and into the presence of God Himself. However, the entire line of Aaron had the unique privilege of entering the ‘Holy Place,' offering the sacrifices on the Altar, and being allowed to dismantle and carry just the most holy of the Tent's parts and furnishings when they traveled in the desert. But the rest of the Levites (who were also priests) couldn't do these things.
What did these special services at the Holy Place picture? In the case of Jesus (the antitypical Aaron), it meant that he went into the actual presence of God in heaven after his resurrection, carrying the blood of his sacrifice. So, the Holy Place was the ‘type,' and Jesus' presence before God in heaven was the ‘antitype.'
However, there appears to be a select few (like the ‘type,' the sons of Aaron) who also have the privilege of entering the Holy Place (the ‘antitype,' or heaven) as ‘Anointed Priests' with Jesus. For the Scriptures show they must also bring the blood from the altar (their own sacrificed lives) to enter that Most Holy Place. Jesus' faithful Apostles are surely numbered among this group, because they did sacrifice their lives in violent deaths (or die after great persecution and suffering, as in the case of John) for their faith.
Priests that Weren't ‘Types' of Heavenly Life
Then, what is the position of those represented by the rest of the tribe of Levi, those who were also priests, but served outside the ‘Holy' compartment of God's presence, (antitypically, the earth) and who aren't ‘the anointed?' Well, notice that those priests were given the special privilege of being judges and teachers in the land. So, is there any other mention in the Bible of Christians who are offered such a privilege of service today?
Yes there are, but most people wrongly assume that the scriptures which speak of them are talking about those with a heavenly destiny. These are the faithful individuals who have taken the lead in feeding the sheep of God and Jesus through the ages, the ‘faithful and sensible slave,' the two (out of three) faithful slaves, and the five wise virgins of Matthew 24, 25. To consider the reasons why we have reached this conclusion, please see the linked document, ‘The Faithful and Sensible Slave.' Surely such faithful servants of God as Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, and John the Baptist are numbered in this group. And would anyone be so foolish as to conclude that theirs is not a special resurrection and hope?
Heavenly Life for All Tribes?
We're sure that if you've followed this complicated discussion closely to this point, you've noticed what appears to be another contradiction. If those ‘sheep' that are promised life in heaven were represented by the line of Aaron specifically, then why does Revelation Chapter Seven show them as coming from all tribes (verses 5-8)? To understand this, we must travel back to God's promise through Moses (found at Exodus 19:6), where God promised: ‘You will become a holy nation and a priesthood of kings to Me.'
So, the whole nation was eventually promised both kingship and priesthood. Therefore, although the ‘type' of those who go to heaven (as well as those who rule on the earth) are the Priests of the line of Levi, in the ‘antitype' the Priests are to be chosen from among all the symbolic twelve tribes of Israel. You will notice this in the precise wording of Revelation 7:5-8, for if you carefully examine the Greek words that are used to translate these verses, you'll see that this group of Priests isn't really said to comprise the twelve complete heavenly tribes. The Greek word that is used there is ek, which means from or out of. So these verses don't imply the calling of entire tribes. Rather, they refer to people being taken from or out of twelve tribes as ‘firstborn' (although the description of ‘New Jerusalem' seems to indicate that they also comprise twelve groups in heaven).
The Antitypical Nation of Israel
Then, where does the rest of the nation of Israel (those of the non-priestly tribes) fit into this picture? Well, in the antitype they appear to be those who are baptized, partake of the emblems of the New Sacred Agreement, and are judged righteous by the anointed. (For more information, see Luke 22:28-30, and the linked documents, The New Sacred Agreement and Jerusalem and the Israel of God).
An Inheritance of Nations
So, what is the hope of Antitypical Israel? Well, at Psalm 111:6 we read: ‘His powerful deeds He's announced to His people; for He's given them the nations to be their inheritance.'
Remember that God's promise to Israel under His Sacred Agreement with them was that if they remained faithful they would become a nation of kings and priests (Exodus 23:22). Kings and priests over whom? The words above provide the answer. The inheritance to faithful Israel was that they would not only inherit the earth or land, but they were to become kings and priests over the nations (the ‘ethnics').
However, Israel as a nation didn't remain true to their God, so the opportunity was then opened to all peoples to become a ‘spiritual Israel.' And especially after the New Sacred Agreement was inaugurated by the death of Jesus, people were chosen from all the nations to be kings and priests because of their faith (Romans 4:16-22). So, all those who prove faithful to the New Sacred Agreement are promised a kingship and priesthood.
A Heavenly or Earthly Inheritance?
Now some will say, ‘Yes, they were promised that, but the reward will be theirs when they are resurrected to heaven.' Yet, if such a statement were true, then will those of Israel who remained faithful to the Old Sacred Agreement (such as Moses, Joshua, David, etc.) be resurrected to heaven, or will they receive no reward at all?
Recognize that faithful men and women of old stayed true to their Agreement with God (to the best of human ability) with the understanding that they would someday receive the nations as their inheritance. So, if we believe that God is righteous, we know that they will receive their promised reward of a kingship and priesthood over the nations. And since no heavenly reward was ever offered to them (see the linked document, ‘The Hereafter'), their inheritance will be found on the earth.
Who are ‘the Nations?'
So, the question logically arises: Who are the nations (or ethnics) over whom those under the Old and New Sacred Agreements with God are to rule?' If you research the Greek word ethne, from which we translate the word nations, you will see that it usually implies those who have not proven faithful to God (for more information, see the linked document ‘Gog of Magog'). So, they are the billions of ‘unrighteous' people who will be raised in the resurrection, as well as any who aren't under the New Sacred Agreement and aren't destroyed in the Battle of Armageddon.
So, in the ‘type' there was:
1. The High Priest (Aaron)
2. Other ‘Anointed and Holy' Priests (Aaron's family line)
3. The rest of the Levite priesthood who served outside the Holy Place and away from the Altar
4. The ‘Children of Israel'
5. The nations.
And in the ‘antitype,' they may picture:
1. Jesus (the firstborn)
2. The ‘firstborn' or ‘anointed' who are resurrected (or called) to heaven
3. The ‘faithful slaves,' who have been found worthy of life and are appointed as kings on the earth
4. Other righteous people who are baptized and agree to be party to the Sacred Agreement with God that survive or are resurrected on earth
5. The ‘unrighteous' dead who are resurrected for judgment on earth.
Are these conclusions accurate? We will all know in time.
Is It Really All that Complicated?
We realize that simple people prefer simple answers, such as:
All the good go to heaven. However, no simple answer makes any sense when you consider all the scriptures.
And yes, our conclusions could change even tomorrow as we continue to search for the true of God....
The term, ‘inherit the land,' or ‘inherit the earth' doesn't necessarily mean that people will live on planet earth forever, because the Greek word ges (which is often translated as ‘earth') doesn't really refer to the planet; it just refers to the land, or the ground... and this description could apply to any place in the universe where God chooses for men to live.