Where Man Can Live Forever
If man does not go to heaven, must he suffer torment in a fiery hell? The Bible shows a place other than heaven where obedient man may live in happiness forever.
MANY religions teach that after death your immortal soul will live in either a heaven of bliss or a hell of torment. There is a world where man can live forever, but it is not one populated by immortal human souls. There is no such thing as an immortal human soul. The human soul is the human life, and when the person dies he is a dead soul, not an immortal one. The Bible uses this expression at Numbers 6:6: “He may not come toward any dead soul.” All imperfect human souls or creatures sin and the penalty for this is death: “The wages sin pays is death.” “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”—Rom. 6:23; Ezek. 18:4, AS.
For the dead to have opportunity to live forever they must be released from death, and this will be by resurrection: “There is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” “The hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who did good things to a resurrection of life, those who practiced vile things to a resurrection of judgment.”—Acts 24:15; John 5:28, 29.
Some will be raised from the dead as spirit creatures to live and reign with Christ in heaven, some will be raised as human creatures of blood and flesh to have opportunity to live on earth, and some will not be resurrected at all because of having already shown themselves incorrigibly wicked: “They shall sleep a perpetual sleep, and not wake, saith the King, whose name is Jehovah of hosts.” “These will depart into everlasting cutting-off.”—Jer. 51:57, AS; Matt. 25:46.
Few religionists of Christendom will argue with the thought of some going to heaven, but few will agree that some will live forever on earth as human creatures. What Bible proof is there for this belief? Proof is found in the very meaning of “world.” The first world was destroyed in the flood of Noah’s time: “There were heavens in ancient times and an earth standing compactly out of water and in the midst of water by the word of God, and by those means the world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.”—2 Pet. 3:5, 6.
The world destroyed by water in Noah’s day consisted of a heavens and an earth, but not the literal starry heavens, nor the literal earthly globe, for those things survived the flood of water. What perished were the wicked invisible heavens organized in a certain system under Satan and wicked persons organized on earth. The wicked heavens were disrupted and the evil people were destroyed, and it was that world of wicked invisible and visible creatures that ended in those ancient times. That a symbolic meaning of “earth” is the peoples on the earth is clear from 1 Kings 10:24, marginal reading: “And all the earth were seeking the face of Solomon to hear his wisdom.”
“But by the same word,” 2 Peter 3:7 continues, “the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” Many religionists use this text to say that the earth will be burned up at the end when the good go to heaven, but if the heavens and earth destroyed in the Flood are not literal, neither are the heavens and earth of this present world literal, which are to be destroyed by fire. To say the literal earth is to be burned up contradicts the Bible statement at Psalm 104:5: “He has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, nor forever.” And for these religionists to say the fiery end of this world of heavens and earth is literal is to say that the heavens they expect to ascend to will also be burned up. Actually, it is the symbolic heavens and earth proved bad that are destroyed, the invisible heavens of Satan and his demons and the visible system of ungodly men inhabiting the earth.
Then the promise is given: “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13) The new symbolic heavens is Christ and Christians from earth raised as spirit creatures to reign with him; and the new earth is people preserved or resurrected to live on earth in righteousness as human creatures of flesh and blood. If there is to be a new world, there will be earthly creatures on earth, for world includes both a heavenly and an earthly part. First Corinthians 4:9 shows this: “We have become a theatrical spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” The world the apostles became a spectacle to consisted of visible and invisible parts, of men and angels.
Not only does Bible usage thus clearly indicate that the Greek word kosmos used for “world” includes a heavenly and an earthly part, but the Greeks themselves understood the word to have that meaning, as shown by Aristotle’s writing “On the World” (Perì Kósmou) wherein he defines kosmos in this way: “A system composed of the heaven and the earth, and of the creatures contained in them; otherwise the order and beautiful arrangement of the world is called kosmos.”
If there is to be a world thus defined, and if it is to be a world without end, then it will include an earthly part of human creatures living forever. It is a part of Jehovah’s promise, and we may confidently await it according to his promise. The very definition and usage of “world” in the Bible proves that there will be human creatures of blood and flesh living forever on earth.
Jehovah’s expressed purpose gives further proof, for his purpose never fails: “I have spoken, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed, I will also do it.” “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” His purpose in making the earth was to have it inhabited, not to have it a waste or reduce it to a cinder: “Thus saith Jehovah that created the heavens, the God that formed the earth and made it, that established it and created it not a waste, that formed it to be inhabited: I am Jehovah; and there is none else.” He made man to “cultivate it and to take care of it” and to “subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is creeping upon the earth.”—Isa. 46:11; 55:11; 45:18, AS; Gen. 2:15; 1:28.
If faithful persons before the time of Christ are to get a resurrection and life, it must be to an earthly existence. John the Baptist was the last of this line of faithful men, and Jesus explicitly said he would not be in heaven and that from his time only was the heavenly way opened up: “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. From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is the goal toward which men press.” None of the faithful ones before Jesus’ time had gone to heaven: “No man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man.” Approved David did not go to heaven: “Brothers, it is allowable to speak with freeness of speech to you concerning the family head David, that he both deceased and was buried and his tomb is among us to this day. Actually David did not ascend to the heavens.” If these men get the reward of life, it must be on earth.—Matt. 11:11, 12; John 3:13; Acts 2:29, 34.
“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed in going out into a place which he was going to receive as an inheritance, and he went out although not knowing where he was going. By faith he resided temporarily in the land of the promise as in a foreign land, and dwelt in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the very same promise. In faith all these died, although they did not get the fulfillment of the promises.” A land was promised to these men and others like them, but they did not get it: “And yet all these, although they had witness borne to them through their faith, did not get the fulfillment of the promise.” They will get the fulfillment of the promise, however, for Jehovah keeps his promises. He will raise them from the dead to life on earth as fleshly human creatures and plant them in the land and they shall never be uprooted. This must happen, or Jehovah’s word would go unfulfilled.—Heb. 11:8, 9, 13, 39.
Human creatures who gain life in heaven as spirit creatures with Christ are limited in number, but an untold number can live on earth forever. To qualify, seek meekness and righteousness: “Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” “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.”—Zeph. 2:3, AS; Ps. 37:11, 29; Rev. 14:1, 3.