We were not created to live in Heaven, but on Earth. We will visit Heaven for a while (1,000 years according to Revelation 20:6), but Earth will always be our home. The doctrine of living forever in Heaven comes from certain verses. Here are two main ones:
“In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” John 14:2-3 “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:17
But Jesus or Paul say where exactly? And is the doctrine of living forever in Heaven truly biblical?
The Blessed Hope
What many call ‘The Rapture' is actually what scripture calls the Blessed Hope.
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;” Titus 2:13
The word rapture never appears in scripture. In fact, the word rapture does not relate to the Lord's Return in any way except it will be a time of intense pleasure and joy! We will be carried away, but the word rapture describes emotion, not physical action.
When will it happen?
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” Mark 13:32
There is the answer. Only the Father knows when Jesus will return. No one can say Jesus revealed it to them because Jesus does not know either! That's why we are warned not to follow those who claim to be Christ or say Christ is coming on a certain day. Now note this verse:
“And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.” John 6:39
This verse relates to the same day we're speaking of. Jesus said it would be the ‘last day'. The dead (those who sleep in Christ) will be raised again at or on the last day. So there will be no more days afterward. No one ‘Left Behind' (not alive anyway – Read 2 Thessalonians 2:8 and Revelation 19:11-21), no Second Coming (this IS the Second Coming!), no Tribulation Period (the last day, right?).
What will happen in that moment?
Let's look at this in it's entirety…
“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
“Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” 1 Corinthians 15:51-54
To begin with, when Jesus returns, it will not be quiet by any means. Most people think is will be a secret. Why would God keep such a tremendous occasion secret? Why would God need to sneak His people away? And since scripture openly tells us of this event, does it make sense to make it a surprise? And again, since we know it will take place at the last day, why bother? The whole world will know our Lord and Savior truly lives and has come to redeem us from the curse forever! He will return the way he left. He was seen by many (not a secret departure, not a secret return), angels accompanied him, and Jesus said it would be so!
“And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11
The Dead will Rise first!
“…and the dead in Christ shall rise first:” 1 Thessalonians 4:16
The bible uses the word ‘dead' and ‘sleep' interchangeably. Death for all men is a sleep as everyone will be resurrected one day. But for the Christian, once awakened, we will never sleep, or die again! In June 1986, Queen released the song, “Who wants to live forever?”, which was on the soundtrack for the movie, Highlander. I don't know about you, but I look forward to living forever! Also note that the dead, in Christ or otherwise, are sleeping right this moment! Paul made it clear in a letter to the Church at Thessalonica, that the those that die do sleep until the Lord returns AND those who live at his coming will not be changed before those who sleep!
The Living will be Changed!
“Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air:…: 1 Thessalonians 4:17
So we see the order of events in 1 Thessalonians 4 and the process in 1 Corinthians 15. The dead will rise in incorruption (No need for anyone already in Heaven to do that, right?). Those alive will put on immortality (again, no need if we are already immortal, right?). So this too lets us know that no is immortal in any way. We have to put it on!
What happens next?
Here is the core of our discussion. We will be caught up in the clouds and spend eternity with the Lord! Next stop, Heaven! But this is a pit stop, not an eternal destination. Can I prove it? You bet!
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is 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.” Revelation 21:1-3
Why a new Earth with a new heaven (atmosphere) if we are going to spend eternity in Heaven (where God dwells)? Besides, the verses say the dwelling place of God is where? With men! And He will dwell with us! Where? On the new Earth! The New Jerusalem, the REAL bride of Christ, comes down from Heaven to the new Earth along with us. And we all dwell on Earth forever!
“And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: And they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5
Where was the original Tree of Life? In Heaven? No, on earth, in the Garden of Eden.
“And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Genesis 2:9
The Tree of Life returns in the new Earth for all to eat from. The place God gave Adam is restored. God continues to provide for His people! It is important to understand the truth. God's plan is specific. God's plan is complete. And God's plan makes perfect sense! If anything seems odd or defies logic, question it. While His ways are past finding out (Job 9:10, Romans 11:33), no where does it say it makes no sense! God has a wonderful and beautiful plan for the redemption and restoration of mankind. If more people understood the facts as written and not as erroneously interpreted, the full beauty and power of God would be revealed to the world. And more would come to belief and victory in Christ!