Is Heaven Your Destiny?
DO YOU, like most persons in Christendom, hope to go to heaven when you die? Yes? But have you ever given it serious thought as to just why you have that hope? Do you really want to go there, or would you rather stay on this beautiful earth, especially if it were to become a paradise? Could it be that, after all, you are like the ones a popular song tells about: “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die”?
Not that there is anything wrong with wanting to go to heaven. Heaven will be the destiny of certain ones, for Jesus plainly told his 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.” Because of this promise Peter could write to certain Christians: “He gave us a new birth to a living hope . . . to an incorruptible and undefiled and unfading inheritance . . . reserved in the heavens.”—John 14:2, 3; 1 Pet. 1:3, 4.
While ‘everybody may want to go to heaven,’ the Bible shows that very few will. Thus Jesus spoke of these as but a “little flock,” while the apostle John gives us the exact number, “a hundred and forty-four thousand.” Compared with earth’s billions, certainly 144,000 is a few, a little flock.—Luke 12:32; Rev. 7:4; 14:1.
One factor that limits the number going to heaven is that Jesus Christ first opened the “new and living way” to heaven by his sacrificial death and resurrection. That is why not even John the Baptist will be in heaven, even though we have Jesus’ own words for it that John was without peer as a prophet of God. “No man . . . ascended into heaven” ahead of Jesus.—Heb. 10:20; Matt. 11:11; John 3:13.
Does this mean that, aside from the very few that go to heaven, all the rest of mankind are lost? Not by any means! All others who are amenable to righteousness will have an opportunity to gain everlasting life, now or later by means of a resurrection, right here upon the earth. These will be the subjects and beneficiaries of the 144,000 that go to heaven to rule with Christ a thousand years. Yes, while there is but one salvation, there are two distinct destinies, a heavenly one and an earthly.—Rev. 20:6.
Because of mistakenly construing literally what the Bible says about a fiery end to this world, many have entirely overlooked what God’s Word has to say about the destiny of this earth. Far from its being destroyed, God “has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, nor forever.” God did not create the earth “simply for nothing” but “formed it even to be inhabited.”—Ps. 104:5; Isa. 45:18.
Not only will this earth continue forever, but God has promised glorious things for it. That is why Jesus taught us to pray: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will come to pass, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:9, 10) Then “they will not do any harm or cause any ruin . . . because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” Gradually God “will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be any more.” Note that this promise applies, not to heaven, but to the earth, where mankind has been suffering for the past six thousand years.—Isa. 11:9; Rev. 21:4.
It simply has to be this way, because that was God’s original purpose regarding the earth and man. Did not God tell our first parents to become fruitful, fill the earth, subdue it, that is, make it all like the garden of Eden, and exercise dominion over the lower animals? Simply because Adam disobeyed and therefore failed to carry out this mandate properly does not mean that God’s purposes regarding the earth failed. “My word that goes forth from my mouth . . . will not return to me without results, but it will certainly do that in which I have delighted, and it will have certain success in that for which I have sent it.” If certain creatures fail, it merely means that God will use others to accomplish his purposes.—Gen. 1:28; Isa. 55:11.
Most persons hope to go to heaven because of never having heard of this earthly destiny and because of having been mistakenly taught that they have an immortal soul that at death goes to either heaven or a burning hell. However, the Bible plainly shows that man is a soul and that when he dies he remains dead until the resurrection.—Gen. 2:7; Eccl. 9:5; John 5:28, 29.
Those who qualify for the heavenly destiny do so only because of certain steps that they take and that God takes on their behalf. They must take in knowledge, exercise faith, dedicate themselves and be baptized and thereafter remain faithful to their dedication even until death, doing their “utmost to render the calling and choosing of” themselves firm. On his part God individually chooses them, declares them righteous, brings them forth as his spiritual sons and anoints them with his spirit as members of Christ’s body.—2 Pet. 1:10.
Those with whom God is so dealing have a firm conviction based upon their study of God’s Word, by God’s dealings with them and by their own course of action. Like the apostle Paul, they are able to say: “The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are God’s children,” and they will be “glorified together” if they continue faithful.—Rom. 8:16, 17.
But unless we have taken these steps and have evidence of God’s thus dealing with us and, in particular, have a strong hope and earnest longing for the heavenly reward, we undoubtedly are among those whose destiny, if they prove worthy, is a glorious paradisaic earth. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to go to heaven, but it would be foolish for one to want to if he had no basis for such a hope. All God’s blessings are undeserved, and love and wisdom indicate that we accept with gratitude whatever destiny may be ours.