What Is the Bible’s View?
Why Does God Take People to Heaven?
“WHAT is your hope for the future, beyond this present life?” Perhaps the majority of persons would answer that they hope to go to heaven.
The World Book Encyclopedia, 1973, explains: “Most religions teach that the angels live in heaven, and the souls of good persons go there after death.”
Commenting further, this encyclopedia adds: “Almost all peoples have dreamed of a heaven where everything would be perfect. The way men picture heaven seems to depend on their own lives and ways of thinking. The Eskimos believe that heaven is in the warm earth. Desert people imagine heaven to be a pleasant oasis that has plenty of water.”
The American Indians spoke of their “Happy Hunting Ground.” Mohammed, founder of the Islamic religion, taught that there are a number of heavens, and that the first man Adam is in the lowest one. But probably the teachings of Jesus Christ are the basis of most people’s hope for heavenly life.
Especially are these words of Jesus cherished: “in the house of my Father there are many abodes. Otherwise, I would have told you, because I am going my way to prepare a place for you. Also, if I go my way [to heaven] and prepare a place for you, I am coming again and will receive you home to myself, that where I am you also may be.”—John 14:2, 3.
What comforting assurance this is that Jesus would receive his followers into heaven with himself! Showing the strong conviction that early Christians had of enjoying heavenly life, one apostle of Jesus wrote: “As for us, our citizenship exists in the heavens, from which place also we are eagerly waiting for a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”—Phil. 3:20, 21; 2 Cor. 5:1, 2.
But why take these Christians to heaven? What purpose does the Father, Jehovah God, have in taking people to heaven? There are various views. in June 1972 two youths, aged fifteen and seventeen, were electrocuted while cleaning a swimming pool. The parish priest said at their funeral:
“This is the way God wants to show His glory, His power. He is the owner of this world and these lives. He can take them when He wants. Our faith knows this. The world is a garden and we are the flowers in it. Just as we would, God looked for the best, the most beautiful.
“He took 15 and 17 years to find out what flowers to pick. He found a corner where the two most beautiful flowers grew and He took them to Himself. He is not unfair. That is the way He is showing His love.”—The Desert Sun, Palm Springs, Calif., July 15, 1972.
This is a view held by prominent religious leaders in Christendom. Roman Catholic cardinal Richard Cushing commented on why the attractive young girl Margaret Cadigan died at the hands of her brother in December 1962. “I think she received the answer, and the only answer she could receive from Almighty God,” Cushing said. And what was that? “Because I love you and I want you home.”
But is that the reason Thomas Cadigan choked his sister to death—because God wanted her in heaven with Him? Consider the consequences of such a belief. For example, when a young woman who had had two stillborn children asked about the possibility of some method of birth control, the priest said: “It is better to have children even if they die, because that way more souls will get to heaven.”—Parade, Oct. 25, 1964.
Is it God’s purpose to populate heaven with humans, taking all good people there? Does he even take children from their parents to be with himself in heaven?
Thoughtful persons are interested in obtaining an authoritative answer.
The Scriptures make clear that it was a happy earthly home that God gave humankind to start with, and purposed that they should enjoy it. There is no indication in the Bible that God ever promised the first human pair, Adam and Eve, that they would be transported to heaven to become angels if they continued faithful to God for a time on earth. In fact, in all the inspired Scriptures from Genesis to Malachi, no promises of heaven were held out to humans; nor did any person go to heaven.
We have the word of Jesus Christ for this. He said: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” (John 3:13) Jesus’ apostle Peter thus said about the faithful servant of God, David: “He both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day. Actually David did not ascend to the heavens.”—Acts 2:29, 34.
A heavenly hope was not held out to those persons who lived before the death of Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus said that “there has not been raised up a greater than John the Baptist; but a person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (Matt. 11:11) Yet if a heavenly hope was not held out to faithful servants of God before Christ came to earth, why does God promise to take certain Christians to heaven? The reason is connected with God’s original purpose to have an earth-wide paradise populated with happy, healthy humans.
To carry out this original purpose, God introduced a new thing—a new government to rule over the earth. God designated his Son, Jesus Christ, to be the king of this government, which is called in the Bible the “kingdom of God” or “the kingdom of the heavens.” (Luke 8:1; Matt. 4:17) And since the days of John the Baptist, who baptized Jesus, God has been selecting from humankind persons to be corulers with his Son in that heavenly government. The Bible says: “They are to rule as kings over the earth.” (Rev. 5:9, 10) One prospective ruler, the apostle Paul, wrote to another, the man Timothy: “If we go on enduring, we shall also rule together as kings.”—2 Tim. 2:12; Luke 22:28-30.
So the reason God takes people to heaven is to form a heavenly government to rule this earth. It is not to populate heaven, to pick children—“beautiful flowers”—for himself. No, for those that God selects for heavenly life are tried and tested persons who qualify to be corulers with Christ. (Rev. 20:6; 2:10) Only a limited number will be taken to heaven to make up this heavenly government, the Bible giving the number as “a hundred and forty-four thousand.”—Rev. 14:1, 3.
How grand it will be in the future when Christ and his 144,000 Kingdom associates rule the earth! Among their earthly subjects will be billions of resurrected dead, including such faithful men of pre-Christian times as David and John the Baptist. The sure promise is that then “death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”—Rev. 21:4; John 5:28, 29.