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.

 

 

 

 

The Hope of Mankind

If you study the Ancient Scriptures of Israel (Old Testament) carefully, you'll find that the patriarchs (Noah, Abraham, etc.) and the pre-Christian Israelites were never really promised life after death. And the fact that there is so little mention of a hereafter in the earliest Bible writings shows a marked contrast between the beliefs of pre-Christian Israelites and other peoples throughout the world. The Egyptians, for example, believed that they had immortal souls, and they seemed to be obsessed with the idea of maintaining their lifestyle after they died. And down through the ages, the idea that people have immortal souls that go ‘into the light' (to heaven) after their bodies die, has been the focus of almost all pagan religions, from the ancient Babylonians, to the Greeks, to the ancient Chinese, and to the earliest Native Americans. However, if you wish to read what the Bible says that the hope of the early Israelites was before the time of Jesus, take the time to look up what Solomon said about this at Ecclesiastes 3:18-22 & 9:4-10, for as he points out there, when a person dies, he or she is just dead. Read, for example, 1 Kings 2:10. For there (as in the case of most deaths mentioned in ancient Israel) the Bible tells us, ‘So, David went to sleep with his ancestors and he was buried in the city of David.' Notice that the account doesn't say he went to God, or to heaven, or to Sheol, or to Hades. He just went to sleep with his ancestors. Also notice what Job said about death at Job 14:12, ‘So, when man goes to sleep he won't rise again, until [the stars] are sewn together... they never awaken from sleep.' Psalm 49:19, 20 says of a man who dies, ‘From generation to generation he'll go down to his fathers, and through the ages he'll never see light. For a man of honor does not realize, that he resembles the unthinking cattle, and that he very much like them.' Psalm 146: 3, 4 says, ‘Do not rely upon rulers... the sons of men who have no salvation. For, His breath goes out; he's gone from his land; and in that day his thoughts pass away.'

 

The Bible Hope
Then, what hope did faithful men and women of old (such as King David) have for life after death? They believed that in some future time, God would resurrect them and bring them back to life. And although the faithful man Job was the first to mention his hope of a resurrection, the first person to prophecy about it was a woman, Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel. For she said (as recorded at 1 Samuel 2:7, 8),
‘For, God kills and gives birth to the living;
He takes them to the grave and leads them back out.
It's God who makes the poor and the rich;
Yes, He humbles and raises.
He resurrects the needy from the ground,
And He raises the poor from the dirt,
To seat them with the mighty of the people,
Where a throne of glory they'll inherit.'

 

And when did they believe that ‘the poor' would be raised ‘from the dirt?' Well, Job prayed (at Job 14:13-15 LXX), ‘O that in the grave You had guarded and hid me ‘til You anger had passed away. Please order a time to be set for me when You'll mention my name once again. Can a man live again after he dies, once the days of his life have past? As for me, I will wait ‘til I live again, when You will call me and I'll listen.' So, the clear hope of the earliest servants of God was that He would remember them at some future time and resurrect them back to life, when they may be rewarded for their faithfulness by being appointed kings.

 

A Contradiction?
Two scriptural references, however, have been understood as meaning that certain individuals had in fact been taken to a heavenly reward during pre-Christian times. The first is found at Genesis 5:22-24, where we read, ‘God found Enoch righteous; and he lived on for some two-hundred years as he fathered other sons and daughters. So, Enoch was three-hundred and sixty-five years old. Then, because he pleased God, God transported him and he disappeared.' In Greek this reads, ‘kai euerestesen Enoch to Theo kai ouch eurisketo hoti metetheken auton ho Theos,' or literally, ‘and pleased Enoch the God and not found, [for] transported (or translated) him the God.' Many read the above scripture and assume that God took Enoch to heaven. But this can't be true, if you believe the Bible, because we read at John 3:13, ‘Nobody has gone to heaven other than he who came from heaven, the Son of Man.' In Greek this reads, ‘Kai oudeis anabebeken eis ton ouranon ei me ho ek tou ouranou katabas ho uios tou anthropou,' or literally, ‘And nobody ascended into heaven (or sky) if not he/who from heaven descended, the son of man.' Also, Colossians 1:17 says of Jesus, ‘He's the earliest and the first one to be born from the dead, so that he would be first in everything.‘ So according to the Bible, nobody could have gone to heaven until Jesus opened the way, for he had to be the first to be born from the dead. Thus, to harmonize the scriptures, we must assume that Enoch wasn't really taken to heaven, but to somewhere (or some time) else. Could he have been transported into the future? Possibly, for that is possible with God, but the Bible simply doesn't tell us. The second scriptural reference that some use to teach a resurrection to heaven prior to Jesus' death and resurrection is found at 2 Kings 2:11. It says there, ‘And as they were walking along and talking, {Look!} a flaming war chariot with flaming horses rode between them and [took] Elijah into the sky in a tornado.' Other Bible translations usually say that Elijah was taken ‘into the heavens.' And because of this, most people believe that he went into the presence of God (heaven). Yet, as you'll notice in this translation's Notes (such as the references linked to the scripture found at Genesis 1:1), Elijah simply flew (on the chariot) into the SKY... because that's what the Greek word ourano (and the equivalent Hebrew word) really means. And (in harmony with John 3:13) notice that he didn't actually go to heaven, because King JehoRam later received a letter from Elijah (see 2 Chronicles 21:12). So, God had apparently used the celestial chariot to take him to another place here on the earth.

 

The Promise of Jesus
Despite the fact that the Hebrews and pre-Christian Israelites didn't necessarily have a reason to believe in the idea of life in a ‘hereafter,' and belief in an ‘immortal soul' was an openly pagan belief that seems to have originated in post-downpour Babylon, it's easy to see why, after the deaths of the Apostles, early Christians came to the conclusion that they don't really die, but that they went to heaven immediately upon their deaths. For, notice how John 11:25, 26 is rendered in other Bible translations: ‘Jesus said to her: I am the resurrection and the life. He that exercises faith in me, even though he dies, will come to life; and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?' Unfortunately, those words are a poor translation of what Jesus actually said, for it appears as though Jesus was teaching that people wouldn't die... and yet they died.

 

Editor's note: According to some Bible Translations, Jesus said (as recorded at John 8:51), ‘Most truly I say to you, if anyone observes my word, he will never see death at all.' Yet, all of Jesus' faithful Apostles and disciples (who had certainly observed his word) died, for the Bible tells of how some of them did die. So, did Jesus lie? No, rather, the way those words are translated in other Bibles is what is wrong. In Greek, John 8:51 reads, ‘Amen, amen, lego hymin, ean tis ton emon logon terese, thanaton ou me theorese eis ton aiōna,' or, ‘Amen, amen (truthfully) I/say to/you, if/ever anyone the my word should/observe, death not not he/shall/behold into the age.'

Notice that the word death (thanaton) precedes age (aiōna), and the word for age is in the singular accusative tense; so he was saying that they wouldn't know death through the era or age. In other words, they would die, but they wouldn't be counted as dead through the age. You will notice that Jesus used the same sentence structure at John 11:26, where he said, ‘kai pas ho zon kai pisteuon eis eme ou me apothane eis ton aiōna, pisteueis touto?' or, ‘and everyone the living and believing into me not not should/die into the age. Believe/you this?' So, although other Bible translations render these words as ‘and everyone that is living and exercises faith in me will never die at all. Do you believe this?' we have translated the verse as, ‘and all the living who believe in me won't be dead through the age. Do you believe this?'

 

How do you rationalize this? Well, many assumed that they were living in the time when the Kingdom of God was coming, and if they survived until the time of its arrival, they would never have to die. For, Paul wrote at 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, ‘Look, I tell you a mystery: Not all of us will be laid to rest, but we'll 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.' And since First-Century Christians believed that they were living in the ‘last days' of this world, it was an easy stretch to believe that they were living during the time of the ‘last trumpet,' and that they would never have to die at all. However, this belief has continued for more than two-thousand years now, so it isn't likely that those were ‘the last days;' and believing that the resurrection has already happened totally contradicts Jesus' promises and the words of Revelation Chapter Twenty, where we're told that the resurrection happens ‘in the Lord's Day.'

The teaching that people were immediately resurrected into heaven upon their deaths had apparently already started to surface in the Christian Congregation near the end of Paul's ministry (mid-60s C.E.). For notice what he wrote to his protégé Timothy about this teaching (at 2 Timothy 2:17, 18), ‘That was the problem with Hymenaeus and Philetus. They got away from the truth and started teaching that the resurrection has already happened, which misdirected the faith of some.' Well then, what was Jesus talking about when he said that people who believed in him wouldn't die? Notice that he also said, ‘Whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live.' So, he wasn't saying that people who believe in him wouldn't die; he was promising them a resurrection. But then, in what sense could Jesus refer to them as not having to die?

 

The God of the Living
At Matthew 22:31, 32, it's recorded that Jesus said, ‘Haven't you read what God told you about the resurrection of the dead [when he said], I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He isn't the God of the dead, but of the living.' And this is just one of several instances throughout the Bible where the faithful and righteous are referred to as ‘the living.'

In the same vein, there are many instances where those who are unrighteous are referred to as ‘the dead.' For, as Jesus said (at Matthew 8:22), ‘Let the dead bury their dead.' Also notice what Paul wrote of Jesus at Romans 14:9: ‘And the reason why the Anointed One died and came to life again, was so that he could be the Lord of the living and the dead.' So, with this understanding in mind, consider what Revelation 20:12 says will happen to these dead ones: ‘Then I saw the dead - the great and the small - standing before the throne, and several scrolls were opened. Then another scroll was opened, which was the Scroll of Life. And the dead were then judged by the things that were written in the scrolls, by the things that they did.'

So, they were ‘standing' (they had already been resurrected), and then they were described as ‘the dead.' As you can see, God resurrects them but still considers them dead, and they must thereafter stand before God's throne to be judged. For scrolls are opened that reveal ‘the things that they did.' But, just when did they do these things that are written in the scrolls? If we were to assume that the things written in the scrolls are records of things they did in their past lives, we would have to ask, ‘Then why would God resurrect them just to condemn them once again?' That makes no sense at all! Rather, it appears as though they are resurrected earlier in the Millennium, and at the end of the thousand years they are judged by the things that they will do during that time, not for the sins of a past life. So, they are still referred to as the dead, because the unrighteous are not counted among the living until God judges them and finds them worthy. If you go back to the Bible account in Revelation 20:12, you'll see that this judging of the dead comes immediately after the nations under Gog of Magog attack God's Holy City. Then the Slanderer is destroyed, and thereafter is where we read of the judging of the dead. So, since the resurrection is spoken of as happening earlier in the Revelation, we would assume that that will have been resurrected much earlier, but will remain in the dead condition until they are judged as either one of the living or to condemnation. But notice that another scroll was also then opened. It is the scroll of life, and apparently it is opened to record the names of those who are found faithful by God at that time. However, realize that the judgment of the dead at the end of the Millennium isn't the beginning of the writing of names in the book of life, for at Philippians 4:3 Paul wrote of ‘fellow workers whose names [were already written] in the Book of Life.'

And at Daniel 12:2 we read, ‘[God] will raise all those whose [names] were written in the book, and many who died and were buried will be resurrected, some to life in the age, some to disgrace, and some will be scattered and shamed in that age.'

So, we must assume that God has already counted many as righteous, and their names have already been written in the book (or scroll) of life. And this means that they (like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) are considered among the living, not the dead, so they don't stand before God in judgment, as do those who God considers the dead.

 

The Resurrection
So, the only hope for dead humans that was ever taught in the Bible is of a resurrection. What does this mean? Well, resurrection comes from the Greek word anastasia, which means ‘to stand again.' By definition, it can't mean that people (souls) don't die. It simply means that they will live on earth (stand) again. Now, the thing that makes the teachings of the Bible so different from all pagan religions, is that it (alone) speaks of a resurrection and the hope of being brought back to life here the earth as humans once again (see Matthew 5:5). Also, this resurrection isn't immediate (as the pagans believed); rather, it happens ‘in the last day.' For, notice what Jesus said at John 6:40 ‘This is what my Father's will is: That everyone who pays close attention to the Son and believes in him should have life in the age, and I will resurrect him on the Last Day.' Who was the first person that was promised a resurrection by God? It was the Prophet Daniel. We find this promise at Daniel 12:13 (LXX), where Daniel was told, ‘Now go and rest, because there are many seasons and days until the end comes. But you will be resurrected (gr. anastese) in glory at the end of the days.'

 

Different from Pagan Beliefs
The fact is, the teaching of the resurrection was totally different from anything that the Greeks believed in Paul's time, for notice how those who gathered to listen to Paul at the AeroPagus reacted when he spoke of it (Acts 17:32), ‘Well, when they heard of a resurrection of the dead, some started joking about it.'

So, the Bible's teaching of a resurrection differed so greatly from the traditional Greek (and other pagan) religious teachings about life after death, that the idea sounded foolish to the Greek philosophers at the time.

 

Who are Resurrected?
And notice that the Bible's teaching of a resurrection isn't just promised to the faithful. For, Paul wrote at Acts 24:15, ‘And I have this hope in God, which they (the Pharisees) also share, that there's going to be a resurrection of the righteous and the unrighteous.' So, we may conclude from these words of Paul that in God's great justice, everyone will be given the opportunity to serve God faithfully and live, regardless of their education, mental condition, age, nationality, or circumstances. The reason why there is so little mention of the resurrection or the hereafter in the Ancient Scriptures of Israel (and the reason why Solomon spoke so gloomily of mankind's hope in Ecclesiastes) is because there was no hope until after Jesus came and gave his life as a ransom for mankind. The sacrifice of his perfect life is what opened the way for men to stand again. As Jesus himself said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.' However, just where would resurrected men stand again?

 

The Hope of Going to Heaven
Throughout Jesus' earthly ministry, he constantly spoke of ‘the Kingdom of Heaven.' This teaching differed greatly from what the pagan Greeks (and others) believed, in that having a part in the kingdom of heaven was only open to a select few. For, notice what Jesus called them at Luke 12:32 ‘Don't be afraid, little flock, because your Father has agreed to give you the Kingdom.'

This small group appears to be limited in number, for notice what Revelation 7:2-4 tells us, ‘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.' From the above (and contrary to common teaching), it appears as though only a limited number were promised this heavenly position. Is this heavenly number of 144,000 ‘elected' ones literal, or is it figurative? There are several reasons to believe that it is literal. They include:

 

* The description at Revelation 7:5-8 shows that this ‘Heavenly Jerusalem' is comprised of people who are chosen from twelve (earthly) tribes, each consisting of 12,000 members from each tribe. And we would expect such a heavenly calling to be made up of a symbolic and complete number (such as twelve times twelve thousand).

* The number 144,000 is then contrasted to an unknown number at Revelation 7:9, which says, ‘After all this, I saw {look!} a crowd so large that nobody could count them.' So, the 144,000 are a special and different group from all the rest, which are much larger groups.

* The fact that the position these selected individuals hold is that of ‘kings and priests' over the earth would logically limit their number, and 144,000 is an adequate size for such a government.

 

Those who argue for a larger number usually do so because they claim to be among those who have been selected by God to serve Him in heaven, which seems silly, because they really aren't considering the great privileges involved in being counted among the ‘living' on the earth.

 

The Requirements for Heavenly Life
The fact is; if all those who claim to qualify to serve as kings and priests in the heavens will really go there, the number would have to be greatly expanded beyond what is said in the Bible. In fact, tens of millions claim that they have already been chosen to that destiny... but they haven't proven faithful until death yet. For, notice what we were told at Revelation 2:10, ‘Be faithful to the death and I'll give you the crown of life.' In fact, it appears as though a martyr's death (like that of Jesus) is required by God to qualify as part of this small group of heavenly Priests. For notice what is said at Revelation 6:11, ‘Then they were each given a white robe and they were told to take it easy just a little while longer, until the full number of their fellow slaves and brothers was filled (who were going to be killed, as they were).' Then notice what Jesus said to his Apostles about this at Matthew 20:22, 23, ‘Can you drink from the cup that I'm about to drink?' And they answered: ‘We can.' So, he said to them, ‘You will indeed drink my cup, but sitting at my right and left hand isn't mine to give. It belongs to those for whom my Father prepared it.' And that's the same question that all who say they've been chosen for life in heaven must ask themselves... Can you drink that same cup? For, if being publicly executed as a criminal (which is what likely happened to all of Jesus' Apostles except perhaps John) was what would be required of these friends who Jesus dearly loved, why would anyone who expects the same reward think that a lower price would be required of them? So, no one can rightly claim to have a heavenly hope until they've proven their integrity by offering their lives in sacrifice, or at least after having endured great persecution for their faith.

 

The Promise of a Kingdom
The actual agreement that opened the way for a small number to go to heaven to serve as rulers over the earth, was the one that Jesus made with his faithful Apostles during his last supper. Notice what he said, as recorded at Luke 22:28-30, ‘However, you are the ones who stuck with me during my trials, so I'm making a promise to you, just as my Father made a promise to me, for a Kingdom... that you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.' This sacred promise by Jesus was the first vehicle mentioned in the Bible that allowed men entry into the Kingdom of Heaven. And it wasn't opened or offered to all mankind, just to certain chosen individuals, starting with Jesus' eleven faithful Apostles. This promise was different from the Sacred Agreement that God had made with ‘spiritual Israel' (all those who claim to be His servants), which was based on the shed blood of Jesus, for that Agreement never promised life in heaven.

 

The Hope of the Rest of Mankind
It would seem as though the promises of the Scriptures - that a small group of chosen ones will rule from heavenly thrones - would make the place where the rest of mankind is to be resurrected obvious. However, religious dogma and lifetime hopes don't always lead people to the easy answers. Yet, the Bible clearly gives us an answer at Isaiah 24:6, where we read, ‘The poor will live on the earth, and just a few men will be left behind.'

 

Live Forever and Everlasting Life?
Unfortunately, many Bible translations have misled their readers into believing false doctrines by mistranslating certain Bible words. This is an especially serious offense against God, because the Bible is supposed to be the unvarnished authority of Christian doctrine, for the scriptures that people quote are the things they believe. And when the words are mistranslated, misleading doctrines result. A prime example of such misleading translating is found in the Greek word aionos in each of its fourteen forms.* Jesus and the Bible writers used the word extensively when talking about what we call the hereafter. Aionos is often translated as everlasting, forever, eternal, etc., giving people the impression that he was promising unending life. That wasn't necessarily what Jesus was talking about. You see, the Greek words aionos (singular) and aionion (plural) don't really mean forever or eternal, as most Bibles translate them; they mean age (or ages), era, epoch, period, or eon, as in the Victorian age or the period of the renaissance. Aionos is the word that some Bibles translate as system of things or world at Matthew 24:3 and in other places. It means an indefinite period of time. So, the Bible really doesn't speak of everlasting life or life eternal. Those are just mistranslations. The Greek word that means eternal is aidios, which is only found in the Bible in two places (Romans 1:20 and Jude 6), and in neither instance is it used to describe mankind's destiny. Jesus and his Apostles knew of that word and understood its meaning, but they chose not to use it when referring to the hope of the faithful. Why not? Because it isn't necessary; for when God counts us among the living, there's no need to describe the length of our lives. We will simply be alive for untold ages of time. This conclusion is strongly suggested by the words of Jesus that are found at John 5:24, ‘I tell you the truth: The one who hears what I say and believes in the One that sent me, will have life in the age (gr. aionos). He won't have to be judged, for has crossed over from death to life.'

Also notice what Jesus said at John 6:40 ‘This is what my Father's will is: That everyone who pays close attention to the Son and believes in him should have life in the age (gr. aionos), and I will resurrect him on the Last Day.' So notice that the faithful receive life in the age (they are counted as the living in their lifetimes), but they must thereafter die and be resurrected by Jesus. Again, notice Jesus' words at John 6:54, 55, ‘For, if you chew my flesh and drink my blood you'll have life within yourselves, and then I'll resurrect you on the Last Day. Those who chew on my flesh and drink my blood will stay in me and I [will stay] in them.' So if we are found to be faithful, we are apparently given life within ourselves (our names are written in the Book of Life and/or we are alive in Jesus), but then we must die and await the resurrected on the last day. Thus, the conclusion that we've reached from a continuing study of the Scriptures, is that the Greek word aionos (singular tense) doesn't even imply immortality. It simply tells us when the gift of life is bestowed... in the current age. For, it's the promise of life (gr. Zoe) itself that implies immortality.

 

The Hope of the ‘We' Who ‘Will Be Changed'
At 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 we read, ‘Look, I tell you a mystery: Not all of us will be laid to rest, but we'll 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 incorruptible, 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.' So, what did Paul mean when he said, ‘the dead will be raised incorruptible ... that which is corruptible will put on incorruptibility, and that which is dying will put on immortality?' First of all, recognize just who Paul is writing about here. He appears to be simply talking about what will happen to ‘the dead' who will be resurrected, not those who are ‘living' in God's eyes. Then he goes on to say ‘And we (the living) will be changed.' So it appears as though two separated groups are being spoken of here, the dead (the unfaithful) and the living (those whose names are written in the book of Life). Yet, according to the text, all who are resurrected will be raised incorruptible and in an undying condition.

Understand that the Greek words Paul used here for corruptible and incorruptible are phtharton and aphthrsian, and for mortal and immortal they are thneton and athanasian... and these words don't necessarily mean what many people think they do (that being incorruptible is the same as being immortal). Phtharton indicates a degenerating condition, such as the normal aging process of man. So, apparently ‘we' will not age. And thneton refers to a dying condition, so we won't be raised (or survive) in a dying condition. Rather, we will be granted athanasia, which doesn't really mean incapable of death as some have said, but that we will simply be ALIVE (undying)! But wasn't Paul speaking of those who have the heavenly hope at 1 Corinthians 15, rather than those righteous who will be resurrected on the earth? We think not.

 

 

      Top of Page                        Visitors Comments