A Conversation With a Neighbor—Do All Good People Go to Heaven?
JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES enjoy discussing the Bible with their neighbors. Do you have a particular Bible question that you have wondered about? Are you curious about any of the beliefs or religious practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses? If so, do not hesitate to bring up the subject the next time you come in contact with a Witness. He or she will be pleased to discuss such matters with you.
The following is a typical conversation that one of Jehovah’s Witnesses might have with a neighbor. Let us imagine that a Witness named Marcus has come to the home of a man named Robert.
What Will Those Who Go to Heaven Do There?
Marcus: When you consider the future, do you think that things are likely to improve, become worse, or stay the same?
Robert: I feel that things will improve. I look forward to going to heaven to be with the Lord.
Marcus: That’s a wonderful hope. The Bible talks a lot about what heaven is like and the privilege of going there. Have you given much thought to what those who go to heaven will do there?
Robert: We will be with God and praise him forever.
Marcus: That’s certainly an appealing prospect. Interestingly, the Bible talks not only about the privileges that those who go to heaven will receive but also about an important responsibility they’ll have.
Robert: What’s that?
Marcus: It’s the responsibility mentioned here in Revelation 5:10. That verse says: “You [Jesus] made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over the earth.” Did you notice, Robert, what responsibility those who go to heaven will shoulder?
Robert: The verse says that they’ll rule as kings over the earth.
Marcus: That’s an interesting thought, isn’t it?
Over Whom Will They Rule?
Marcus: Now, would you not agree that if those who go to heaven will rule as kings, there must be people over whom they’ll rule? After all, what’s the point of a government without any subjects?
Robert: I see your point.
Marcus: So a logical question to ask is, Whom will they rule over?
Robert: I suppose we’ll rule over the people on earth who haven’t died and gone to heaven yet.
Marcus: That would seem reasonable—if all good people go to heaven. But here’s another possibility to consider. Could it be that some people—some good people—will not go to heaven?
Robert: I’ve never heard of any Christians who believe that.
Marcus: I raise the question because of what we read at Psalm 37:29. Would you please read this verse?
Robert: OK. It says: “The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”
Marcus: Thank you. Did you notice where many good people will live?
Robert: The verse says they’ll reside on the earth.
Marcus: Precisely—and not just for a short time. Notice that the verse says: “They will reside forever upon it.”
Robert: Maybe that just means that there will always be good people on earth. When we die and go to heaven, we’re replaced by other good people who have been born.
Marcus: Many would probably interpret the verse that way. But is it possible that the verse means something else altogether? Could it be saying that good people themselves will live forever on earth?
Robert: I’m not sure I follow you.
A Future Earthly Paradise
Marcus: Well, consider what another portion of the Bible says about life on earth in the future. Let’s read Revelation 21:4. Concerning people who will live at that future time, the verse says: “He [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” Isn’t that an appealing prospect?
Robert: Yes. But I think that’s talking about what life will be like in heaven.
Marcus: Well, it’s true that those who go to heaven will experience similar blessings. But look at the verse again. What does it say will happen to death?
Robert: It says that “death will be no more.”
Marcus: Exactly. Now, I’m sure you would agree that for something to be no more, it had to exist in the first place.
Robert: Of course.
Marcus: But there has never been death in heaven, has there? It’s only here on earth that people die.
Robert: Hmm. I’ll have to think about that.
Marcus: You see, Robert, the Bible teaches that some good people will go to heaven but that many others will live forever here on earth. In fact, I’m sure you’ve heard the famous words: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.”—Matthew 5:5, King James Version.
Robert: Yes, I’ve heard that passage read at church many times.
Marcus: If the meek inherit the earth, doesn’t that imply that people will be living on the earth? Those who live on the earth will enjoy the benefits foretold here in Revelation. They will see our world completely change because God will do away with everything bad—even death.
Robert: I see what you’re getting at, but I’m not sure that just one or two Bible verses prove your point.
Marcus: Of course not. Actually, there are a number of scriptures that talk about what life here on earth will be like in the future. Perhaps I can show you one of my favorite passages, if you have a moment?
Robert: Yes, I have a few minutes.
“The Wicked One Will Be No More”
Robert: Sure. “And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; and you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”
Marcus: Thank you. Looking at verse 11, where will “the meek ones,” or good people, live?
Robert: It says they “will possess the earth.” However, I feel that this verse applies right now; after all, good people live on earth today.
Marcus: That’s true. However, notice that the verse also says that good people will enjoy an “abundance of peace.” We don’t see much peace in the world today, do we?
Robert: No, we don’t.
Marcus: So how will the promise be fulfilled? Maybe I could use this comparison: Imagine you own an apartment building. Some of the tenants are good people—they take care of their apartment and try to be good neighbors. You’re glad to rent an apartment to them. But others are bad tenants; they damage the property and make life miserable for their neighbors around them. Now, if those bad tenants refused to clean up their act, what would you do?
Robert: I’d evict them.
Marcus: That’s exactly what God is going to do to the bad people around us today. Look again at verse 10. It says: “The wicked one will be no more.” In other words, God will “evict” the people who make trouble for others. Then good people will be able to enjoy life on earth in peace. I realize that this idea of good people living forever on earth may be somewhat different from what you’ve been taught in the past.
Robert: Yes, I’ve never heard that idea at my church.
Marcus: And as you mentioned before, it’s not enough to consider just one or two verses on the subject. Really, we need to examine what the Bible as a whole says about the future of good people. But based on the scriptures we’ve read today, do you think it’s possible that some good people will go to heaven, while many other good people will live forever here on earth?
Robert: I’m not sure. But I have to admit that it does appear that way from the scriptures you just read. I’ll have to think about it some more.
Marcus: As you consider the subject further, there may be other questions that come to mind. For example, what about good people who have lived before us? Did they all go to heaven? If not, where are they now?
Robert: Interesting questions.
Marcus: Perhaps I can do two things for you. First, let me jot down a few scriptures that have a bearing on the topic.* Second, I’d like to come back and discuss those scriptures after you’ve had a chance to read them and think about them. Would that be OK?
Robert: Yes, that sounds good. Thank you.