Definition: The dwelling place of Jehovah God and of faithful spirit creatures; a realm invisible to human eyes. The Bible also uses the term “heaven(s)” in a variety of other senses; for example: to represent God himself, his organization of faithful spirit creatures, a position of divine favor, the physical universe apart from the earth, the expanse surrounding planet Earth, human governments under Satan’s domination, and the righteous new heavenly government in which Jesus Christ with his joint heirs are empowered by Jehovah to rule.
Did we all exist in the spirit realm before our birth as humans?
John 8:23: “[Jesus Christ said:] ‘You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.’” (Jesus did come from the spirit realm. But, as Jesus said, other men did not.)
Rom. 9:10-12: “Rebekah conceived twins . . . When they had not yet been born nor had practiced anything good or vile, in order that the purpose of God respecting the choosing might continue dependent, not upon works, but upon the One who calls, it was said to her: ‘The older will be the slave of the younger.’” (Of course, if the twins Jacob and Esau had lived previously in a spirit realm they certainly would have built up a record based on their conduct there, would they not? But they had no such record until after their birth as humans.)
Do all good people go to heaven?
Acts 2:34: “David [whom the Bible refers to as being ‘a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart’] did not ascend to the heavens.”
Matt. 11:11: “Truly I say to you people, Among those born of women 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.” (So John did not go to heaven when he died.)
Ps. 37:9, 11, 29: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth . . . The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”
If Adam had not sinned, would he eventually have gone to heaven?
Gen. 1:26: “God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness, and let them have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and the domestic animals and all the earth and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.’” (So, God’s purpose for Adam was that he be caretaker of the earth and of the animal life there. Nothing is said about his going to heaven.)
Gen. 2:16, 17: “Jehovah God also laid this command upon the man: ‘From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.’” (It was not Jehovah’s original purpose for man someday to die. God’s command here quoted shows that he warned against the course that would lead to death. Death was to be punishment for disobedience, not the doorway to a better life in heaven. Obedience would have been rewarded by continued life, eternal life, in the Paradise that God had given to man. See also Isaiah 45:18.)
Must a person go to heaven to have a truly happy future?
Ps. 37:11: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.”
Rev. 21:1-4: “I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . I heard a loud voice from the throne say: ‘Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he 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.’”
Mic. 4:3, 4: “They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war anymore. And they will actually sit, each one under his vine and under his fig tree, and there will be no one making them tremble; for the very mouth of Jehovah of armies has spoken it.”
Did Jesus open the way to heaven for those who had died before his own death?
What does 1 Peter 3:19, 20 mean? “In this state [in the spirit, following his resurrection] also he [Jesus] went his way and preached to the spirits in prison, who had once been disobedient when the patience of God was waiting in Noah’s days, while the ark was being constructed, in which a few people, that is, eight souls [“souls,” KJ, Dy; “people,” TEV, JB; “persons,” RS], were carried safely through the water.” (Were those “spirits in prison” the souls of the humans who had refused to take heed to Noah’s preaching before the Flood, and was the way now open for them to go to heaven? Comparison of 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6 with Genesis 6:2-4 shows that these spirits were angelic sons of God that had materialized and married in Noah’s day. At 1 Peter 3:19, 20 the Greek word for “spirits” is pneuʹma·sin, while the word rendered “souls” is psy·khaiʹ. The “spirits” were not disembodied souls but disobedient angels; the “souls” here referred to were living people, humans, Noah and his household. What was preached to “spirits in prison” must therefore have been a message of judgment.)
What is the meaning of 1 Peter 4:6? “In fact, for this purpose the good news was declared also to the dead, that they might be judged as to the flesh from the standpoint of men but might live as to the spirit from the standpoint of God.” (Were these “dead” the people who had died prior to the death of Christ? As already shown, the dead are not “the spirits in prison.” Those spirits were disobedient angels. And preaching would not have benefited physically dead humans because, as Ecclesiastes 9:5 says, they “are conscious of nothing at all,” and Psalm 146:4 adds that at death a person’s “thoughts do perish.” But Ephesians 2:1-7, 17 does refer to persons who were spiritually dead and who came to life spiritually as a result of accepting the good news.)
Is heavenly life set out in the “New Testament” as the hope for all Christians?
John 14:2, 3: “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.” (Jesus here shows that his faithful apostles, to whom he was speaking, would, in time, be in his Father’s “house,” in heaven, with Jesus. But he does not here say how many others would also go to heaven.)
John 1:12, 13: “As many as did receive him [Jesus], to them he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name; and they were born, not from blood or from a fleshly will or from man’s will, but from God.” (Notice that the context, in verse 11, refers to Jesus’ “own people,” the Jews. As many of them as did receive him when he came to them in the first century became God’s children, with heavenly life in view. The verbs in the text are in the past tense, so this passage is not referring to all people who have become Christians since then.)
Rom. 8:14, 16, 17: “All who are led by God’s spirit, these are God’s sons. The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children. If, then, we are children, we are also heirs: heirs indeed of God, but joint heirs with Christ, provided we suffer together that we may also be glorified together.” (At the time this was written it was true that all who were led by God’s spirit were God’s sons whose hope was that they would be glorified with Christ. But this had not always been true. Luke 1:15 says that John the Baptizer would be filled with holy spirit, but Matthew 11:11 makes clear that he will not share in the glory of the heavenly Kingdom. So, too, after the gathering of the heirs of the heavenly Kingdom, there would be others who would serve God as followers of his Son and yet not share in heavenly glory.)
What specific references are there in the “New Testament” to a provision for Christians to be rewarded with eternal life on earth?
Matt. 5:5: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.”
Matt. 6:9, 10: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (What is God’s will regarding the earth? What do Genesis 1:28 and Isaiah 45:18 indicate?)
Matt. 25:31-33, 40, 46: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left. . . . The king will say to them [the sheep], ‘Truly I say to you, To the extent that you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ And [the goats] will depart into everlasting cutting-off, but the righteous ones [the sheep] into everlasting life.” (Notice that these “sheep” are not the same as the King’s brothers, who are “partakers of the heavenly calling.” [Heb. 2:10–3:1] But these sheeplike ones would be alive during the time that Christ was on his throne and during the time when some of his “brothers” would still be experiencing hardship on earth.)
John 10:16: “I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; those also I must bring, and they will listen to my voice, and they will become one flock, one shepherd.” (Who are these “other sheep”? They are followers of the Fine Shepherd, Jesus Christ, but are not in the “new covenant” sheepfold, with hope of heavenly life. Yet they do come to be closely associated with those who are in that sheepfold.)
Rev. 7:9, 10: “After these things [after the apostle John saw the full number of “sealed” ones who had been “bought from the earth” to be with Christ on heavenly Mount Zion; see Revelation 7:3, 4; 14:1-3] I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands. And they keep on crying with a loud voice, saying: ‘Salvation we owe to our God, who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb.’”
To how many does the Bible hold out hope of heavenly life?
Luke 12:32: “Have no fear, little flock, because your Father has approved of giving you the kingdom.”
Rev. 14:1-3: “I saw, and, look! the Lamb [Jesus Christ] standing upon the Mount Zion [in heaven; see Hebrews 12:22-24], and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads. . . . And they are singing as if a new song . . . and no one was able to master that song but the hundred and forty-four thousand, who have been bought from the earth.”
Are the 144,000 only natural Jews?
Rev. 7:4-8: “I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel: . . . Judah . . . Reuben . . . Gad . . . Asher . . . Naphtali . . . Manasseh . . . Simeon . . . Levi . . . Issachar . . . Zebulun . . . Joseph . . . Benjamin.” (These cannot be the tribes of natural Israel because there never was a tribe of Joseph, the tribes of Ephraim and Dan are not included in the list here, and the Levites were set aside for service in connection with the temple but were not reckoned as one of the 12 tribes. See Numbers 1:4-16.)
Rom. 2:28, 29: “He is not a Jew who is one on the outside, nor is circumcision that which is on the outside upon the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one on the inside, and his circumcision is that of the heart by spirit, and not by a written code.”
Gal. 3:26-29: “You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. . . . There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one person in union with Christ Jesus. Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.”
Is the number 144,000 merely symbolic?
The answer is indicated by the fact that, after mention of the definite number 144,000, Revelation 7:9 refers to “a great crowd, which no man was able to number.” If the number 144,000 were not literal it would lack meaning as a contrast to the “great crowd.” Viewing the number as literal agrees with Jesus’ statement at Matthew 22:14 regarding the Kingdom of the heavens: “There are many invited, but few chosen.”
Do those of the “great crowd” referred to at Revelation 7:9, 10 also go to heaven?
Revelation does not say of them, as it does of the 144,000, that they are “bought from the earth” to be with Christ on heavenly Mount Zion.—Rev. 14:1-3.
The description of them as “standing before the throne and before the Lamb” indicates, not necessarily a location, but an approved condition. (Compare Revelation 6:17; Luke 21:36.) The expression “before the throne” (Greek, e·noʹpi·on tou throʹnou; literally, “in sight of the throne”) does not require that they be in heaven. Their position is simply “in sight” of God, who tells us that from heaven he beholds the sons of men.—Ps. 11:4; compare Matthew 25:31-33; Luke 1:74, 75; Acts 10:33.
The “great crowd in heaven” referred to at Revelation 19:1, 6 is not the same as the “great crowd” of Revelation 7:9. The ones in heaven are not described as being “out of all nations” or as ascribing their salvation to the Lamb; they are angels. The expression “great crowd” is used in a variety of contexts in the Bible.—Mark 5:24; 6:34; 12:37.
What will those who go to heaven do there?
1 Cor. 6:2: “Do you not know that the holy ones will judge the world?”
Rev. 5:10: “You made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God, and they are to rule as kings over [“on,” RS, KJ, Dy; “over,” AT, Da, Kx, CC] the earth.” (The same Greek word and grammatical structure is found at Revelation 11:6. There RS, KJ, Dy, etc., all render it “over.”)
Who selects the ones who will go to heaven?
2 Thess. 2:13, 14: “We are obligated to thank God always for you, brothers loved by Jehovah, because God selected you from the beginning for salvation by sanctifying you with spirit and by your faith in the truth. To this very destiny he called you through the good news we declare, for the purpose of acquiring the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”