Monday, February 28, 2011
DO ALL GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN?
DO ALL GOOD PEOPLE GO TO HEAVEN?
What Is Heaven Like?
In this series:
Seeking the Truth About Heaven
What Is Heaven Like?
Do All Good People Go to Heaven?
Death—Is It Really the End?
SOME people think that it is impossible to know about heaven because no one has ever come down from there to tell us about it. Perhaps they have forgotten that Jesus said: “I have come down from heaven.” (John 6:38) To some religious leaders, he also said: “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above.” (John 8:23) What did Jesus say about heaven?
Jesus confirmed that heaven is where Jehovah resides. He called God “my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 12:50) But Jesus used the word “heaven” in more than one sense. For example, he referred to the earth’s atmosphere as “heaven” when he said: “Observe intently the birds of heaven.” (Matthew 6:26) Nevertheless, Jehovah lives beyond the atmosphere. The Bible says: “There is One who is dwelling above the circle of the earth.”—Isaiah 40:22.
Does the “Father who is in heaven” live among the stars? The physical universe is also called “heaven” in the Holy Scriptures. For example, one psalmist wrote: “When I see your heavens, the works of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have prepared, what is mortal man that you keep him in mind?”—Psalm 8:3, 4.
No, Jehovah God does not have to live inside the physical universe that he created any more than a carpenter has to live inside a cupboard that he makes. Thus, when King Solomon dedicated the temple in Jerusalem to Jehovah, he said: “Will God truly dwell upon the earth? Look! The heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens, themselves cannot contain you; how much less, then, this house that I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27) If Jehovah does not dwell in the physical heaven, what is the heaven where he does dwell?
Although men have studied the physical heavens with powerful telescopes and some have traveled to outer space, what the Bible says remains true: “No man has seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) Jesus explained why when he said: “God is a Spirit.”—John 4:24.
A spirit is a form of life higher than a human. A spirit is not composed of physical material, such as flesh and blood, that can be seen and felt by human senses. So when Jesus said that he used to dwell alongside his Father in “heaven,” he meant that he used to have a form of life that is more glorious than any physical form of life. (John 17:5; Philippians 3:20, 21) This spirit realm where Jesus used to live with his Father is what the Bible calls “heaven.” What is it like? What happens there?
A Place of Happy Activity
The Bible describes heaven as a hive of activity. It mentions hundreds of millions of faithful spirit creatures who live there. (Daniel 7:9, 10) Each of these spirit creatures has his own distinct personality. How do we know that? In all observable creation, no two living things are exactly alike, so we can be sure that in heaven, there is great diversity as well. Remarkably, all these heavenly personalities work together in unity, thus providing an admirable contrast to the earth today, where people rarely cooperate well.
Notice how the Bible describes activity in heaven. “Bless Jehovah, O you angels of his, mighty in power, carrying out his word, by listening to the voice of his word. Bless Jehovah, all you armies of his, you ministers of his, doing his will.” (Psalm 103:20, 21) So a lot of work is being done in heaven. We can be sure that it is satisfying work.
Angels have a long history of happy service that goes back to a time even before the earth was created. According to the Scriptures, when Jehovah founded the earth, the sons of God “joyfully cried out together” and “began shouting in applause.” (Job 38:4, 7) One of God’s heavenly sons was even privileged to work along with God in the creation of all other things. (Colossians 1:15-17) This appealing description of happy activity in heaven may raise questions in your mind about heaven and mankind.
Were Humans Intended to Go to Heaven?
Since angels were serving God in heaven before the founding of the earth, the first man and woman were evidently not created to populate the heavens. Rather, God said to that first human pair: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth.” (Genesis 1:28; Acts 17:26) Adam was the first of a new form of earthly life, able to know God and to serve him faithfully. He was to father a race of humans whose home would be the earth. “As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, but the earth he has given to the sons of men.”—Psalm 115:16.
People do not normally want to die; death is not natural for humans. God mentioned death to Adam only as the punishment for disobedience. Had Adam obeyed, he would never have died.—Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12.
Not surprisingly, then, God said nothing to Adam about going to heaven. So the earth was not to be a proving ground where people would be tested to see if they were fit for heaven. Man was created to live forever on earth, and that purpose of God will yet be fulfilled. The Bible promises that “the righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:29) Clearly, humans were not originally meant to go to heaven. Why, then, did Jesus promise heavenly life to his apostles? Did Jesus mean that all good people will go to heaven?