Who Go to Heaven, and Why?
1. How will many persons answer the question, Who go to heaven, and why?
MANY PERSONS say, ‘All good people go to heaven.’ However, when asked why they go to heaven, they may say: ‘It is to be with God,’ or, ‘It is the reward for being good.’ What does the Bible teach about this?
2, 3. (a) Why can we be sure some humans will go to heaven? (b) What question needs to be answered?
2 The Bible makes clear that Jesus was raised from the dead and that he went to heaven. Also, it says that other humans would be taken there. On the night before his death, Jesus told his faithful apostles: “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 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 14:1-3.
3 Clearly, Jesus was telling his apostles that they would be taken to heaven to be with him. The apostle Paul often told early Christians about that wonderful hope. For example, he 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.” (Philippians 3:20, 21; Romans 6:5; 2 Corinthians 5:1, 2) Based on such promises, millions of persons have set their hearts on heavenly life. Yet will all good persons go to heaven?
DO ALL GOOD PERSONS GO TO HEAVEN?
4, 5. What proof is there that David and Job did not go to heaven?
4 Shortly after Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostle Peter told a crowd of Jews: “The family head David . . . 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) So the good man David did not go to heaven. What about the righteous man Job?
5 While suffering, Job prayed to God: “O that in Sheol [the grave] you would conceal me, that you would keep me secret until your anger turns back, that you would set a time limit for me and remember me!” Job expected that when he died he would become unconscious in the grave. He knew he would not go to heaven. But he had hope, as he explained: “If an able-bodied man dies can he live again? All the days of my compulsory service [appointed time in the grave] I shall wait, until my relief comes. You will call, and I myself shall answer you.”—Job 14:13-15.
6, 7. (a) What shows that no one who died before Christ went to heaven? (b) What will happen to all faithful ones who died before Christ?
6 John, who baptized Jesus, was also a good man. Yet Jesus said: “A person that is a lesser one in the kingdom of the heavens is greater than he is.” (Matthew 11:11) This is so because John the Baptizer will not go to heaven. When Jesus was on earth, which was over 4,000 years after the rebellion of Adam and Eve, he said: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.”—John 3:13.
7 Therefore, according to Jesus’ own words, no man had gone to heaven for all those 4,000 years of human history down until his day. David, Job and John the Baptizer will receive a resurrection to life on earth. In fact, all faithful men and women who died before Jesus died had the hope of living again on earth, not in heaven. They will be resurrected to become some of the earthly subjects of God’s kingdom.—Psalm 72:7, 8; Acts 17:31.
WHY SOME FAITHFUL ONES GO TO HEAVEN
8. The answers to what questions are important, and why?
8 Why did Jesus go to heaven? What work does he have to do there? The answers to these questions are important. This is because those who go to heaven will share with Jesus in his work. They go to heaven for that very purpose.
9, 10. According to Daniel, who besides Christ will rule in God’s government?
9 We learned in earlier chapters that Jesus will rule over the paradise new earth as king of God’s heavenly government. Long before Jesus came to the earth, the Bible book of Daniel foretold that the “son of man” would be “given rulership.” The “Son of man” is Jesus Christ. (Mark 14:41, 62) And Daniel goes on to say: “His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”—Daniel 7:13, 14.
10 However, it is important to note here in the book of Daniel that the “son of man” is not to rule alone. The Bible says: “And the kingdom and the rulership . . . were given to the people who are the holy ones of the Supreme One. Their kingdom is an indefinitely lasting kingdom.” (Daniel 7:27) These expressions “the people” and “their kingdom” let us know that others will rule with Christ in God’s government.
11. What shows that Christ’s early followers will rule with him?
11 On the last night that Jesus spent with his faithful 11 apostles he showed that they would be rulers with him in God’s kingdom. He told them: “You are the ones that have stuck with me in my trials; and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom.” (Luke 22:28, 29) Later, the apostle Paul and Timothy were included in this covenant, or agreement, for a kingdom. For that reason Paul wrote Timothy: “If we go on enduring, we shall also rule together as kings.” (2 Timothy 2:12) Also, the apostle John wrote of those who will “rule as kings over the earth” along with Jesus Christ.—Revelation 5:9, 10; 20:6.
12. What fact regarding Abraham’s “seed” reveals that Christ will have joint rulers?
12 So those who go to heaven go there to serve as joint rulers with Christ in God’s heavenly government. While Jesus is the main “seed” of promise, God chooses others from among humankind to rule with Jesus in the kingdom. They thus become part of the “seed,” as the Bible says: “If you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”—Galatians 3:16, 29; James 2:5.
HOW MANY GO TO HEAVEN?
13. (a) Why will babies not go to heaven? (b) How did Jesus describe the number who receive the Kingdom?
13 Since they are to rule over the earth, it is clear that those who go to heaven will be tried and tested followers of Christ. This means that babies or young children, who have not been fully tested during years of Christian service, will not be taken to heaven. (Matthew 16:24) However, such young ones who die have the hope of being raised to life on earth. (John 5:28, 29) So the total number who go to heaven will be small when compared with the many who will receive life on earth under Kingdom rule. Jesus told his disciples: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.”—Luke 12:32.
14. How many make up the “little flock” who go to heaven?
14 How small a number will that class of Kingdom rulers be? Will it include only the apostles and other early followers of Jesus? No, the Bible shows that the “little flock” will include more. At Revelation 14:1, 3 the Bible says: “And I saw, and, look! the Lamb [Jesus Christ] standing upon the [heavenly] Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand . . . who have been bought [or, taken] from the earth.” Note that only 144,000 persons are seen with the Lamb, Jesus Christ, on heavenly Mount Zion. (Hebrews 12:22) So rather than all good people going to heaven, the Bible reveals that only 144,000 tried and faithful persons will be taken there to rule with Christ.
WHY CHOSEN FROM THE EARTH
15. Why does God choose the Kingdom rulers from among humankind?
15 But why does God choose these rulers from among humankind? Why not have angels rule with Christ? Well, it was here at the earth that Jehovah’s right to rule was challenged. It was here that the faithfulness of men to God could be put to the test under opposition from the Devil. It was here that Jesus proved his full loyalty to God under test and gave his life as a ransom for mankind. So it was from the earth that Jehovah arranged to take a “little flock” of persons to be associated with his Son in the heavenly kingdom. They are the ones who, by their faithfulness to God, proved false the Devil’s charge that men serve God only for selfish reasons. It is fitting, therefore, that Jehovah uses these humans for his glory.—Ephesians 1:9-12.
16. Why can we be grateful that the Kingdom rulers have lived on earth?
16 Also, think how wonderful it will be to have as rulers persons who proved faithful to God on earth, many of them even sacrificing their lives in behalf of the Kingdom. (Revelation 12:10, 11; 20:4) Angels have not faced such kind of testings. Nor have they experienced the problems common to humankind. So they would not fully understand what it is like to be a sinful human and to have the problems we humans do. But the 144,000 will understand because they have had these very problems. Some of them have had to overcome very sinful practices, and they know how hard it can be to do so. (1 Corinthians 6:9-11) Therefore, they will deal with their earthly subjects in an understanding way.—Hebrews 2:17, 18.
THE CONGREGATION OF GOD
17. To what does the word “congregation” refer?
17 The Bible tells us that Christ is the head of God’s congregation, and that its members are subject to Jesus. (Ephesians 5:23, 24) So the word “church,” or “congregation of God,” does not refer to some building. Rather, it refers to a group of Christians. (1 Corinthians 15:9) Today we may speak of the congregation of Christians with whom we associate. In the same way, we read in the Bible about “the congregation of the Laodiceans,” and, in the apostle Paul’s letter to Philemon, about “the congregation that [was in his] house.”—Colossians 4:16; Philemon 2.
18. (a) Who make up “the congregation of the living God”? (b) By what terms is this congregation also referred to in the Bible?
18 However, when the Bible speaks of “the congregation of the living God,” it is referring to a particular group of Christ’s followers. (1 Timothy 3:15) They are also called “the congregation of the firstborn who have been enrolled in the heavens.” (Hebrews 12:23) So this “congregation of God” is made up of all Christians on earth who have the hope of heavenly life. In all, only 144,000 persons finally make up the “congregation of God.” Today only a few of these, a remnant, are still on earth. Christians who hope to live forever on earth look for spiritual guidance from members of this “congregation of the living God.” The Bible also refers to this congregation of 144,000 members by such terms as “the bride, the Lamb’s wife,” “the body of the Christ,” “the temple of God,” “the Israel of God,” and the “New Jerusalem.”—Revelation 21:9; Ephesians 4:12; 1 Corinthians 3:17; Galatians 6:16; Revelation 21:2.
THE NEW THING IN GOD’S PURPOSE
19. What new thing did God introduce to carry out his original purpose for the earth?
19 Jehovah God did not change his purpose for the earth and mankind on it after Adam started the human race down the path of sin and death. Had God done so, it would have meant that he was not able to carry out his original purpose. His purpose from the beginning was to have an earth-wide paradise filled with happy, healthy people, and that purpose still stands. The only new thing that God introduced was his arrangement for a new government to carry out his purpose. As we have seen, his Son, Jesus Christ, is the main ruler in this government, and 144,000 persons will be taken from among humankind to rule in heaven with him.—Revelation 7:4.
20. (a) Who make up the “new heavens” and the “new earth”? (b) What must you do to become part of the “new earth”?
20 These rulers in heaven will make up the “new heavens” of God’s new system. Yet it is clear that if there are to be such righteous rulers over the earth, then there must be those over whom they rule. The Bible refers to these persons as the “new earth.” (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-4) They will include Job, David and John the Baptizer—yes, all the faithful ones who lived before Christ came to the earth. But there will be many more who will make up the “new earth,” including persons who survive the end of this wicked system of things. Will you be one of these survivors? Do you want to be a subject of God’s government? If so, there are requirements you must meet.
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Did these good men go to heaven?
John the Baptizer
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On his last night with the apostles, Jesus said they would be rulers with him in his Father’s kingdom