Is Heaven Our Reward?
Is heaven the reward of the saved? Should heaven be the goal of every true Christian? What does the Bible actually teach about heaven as our destination after death?
Let’s turn and read what the Bible says on this subject, Matthew 5:5. These are the words of Jesus Christ in this famous section of the Bible called the beatitudes.
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
Did you notice that? Jesus Christ is speaking here and He says in Matthew 5:5:
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
He did not say they should inherit heaven. He said they shall inherit the earth. Now notice verse 3. Is this a contradiction? Matthew 5:3.
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
So do we have two categories of Christians that are saved? The meek inherit the earth and the poor in spirit go to heaven. Is that what it means?
No, there is no contradiction here. In verse 3, we just need to make a distinction between two simple little words “in” and “of”. It says the kingdom of heaven.
We can draw an analogy that Mr. Armstrong used to draw about the famous Bank of Morgan in New York. And as he pointed out, the Bank of Morgan does not mean it is inside Mr. Morgan. It simply means he owns the Bank of Morgan. The word “of” denotes ownership. It is not the bank in Mr. Morgan, but the bank he owns.
The same is true with the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is not referring to a kingdom that is in heaven, but one that is to be on earth and owned or ruled by heaven. “Of” simply denotes ownership. “In” denotes location.
The kingdom is not going to be in heaven. It is going to be on the earth. But it is of heaven or owned and ruled by God in heaven. So there’s no contradiction here.
Blessed are the meek it says in verse 5, for they shall inherit the earth. So what about that? How do we read that and then square it with the teaching that the reward of the saved is that they are going to be going up to heaven.
Let’s turn now to Matthew 6, just over a page. Look at what Jesus Christ said in the famous “Lord’s Prayer” Actually, this is an outline He gave to guide us in praying to the Father in heaven. But notice what He says here in Matthew 6:9.
9 After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Now, what about that right there? He says we are to pray to God the Father in heaven and we are to ask Him to send His kingdom to this earth.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Now we have read Jesus Christ’s own words in two places already where He lays out the truth about this matter of the saved going to heaven. He said the meek will inherit the earth. And He said we are to pray to the Father in heaven: Send your kingdom to this earth so that your will, will be done on earth as it is now done in heaven.
This, of course, contradicts the false teaching that the reward of the saved is heaven. People believe it though. They believe that immediately after death, if you have been good, you flit off to heaven to “ be with the Lord”
Is that what the Bible really says? Can you find it anywhere in the Bible? Can you find any scriptures that teach that or prove that anywhere in the Bible? As we have brought out before in these broadcasts, we are to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good. That’s what God’s Word tells us.
We’ve also pointed out in the scripture that Jesus said you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. Free from wrong attitudes, free from sin, and free from false teachings. What does the Bible really say about this teaching that the saved will go to heaven?
You are going to see as we go through the Bible, that is a false teaching. The teaching that our loved ones are now in glory up in heaven looking down on us from there. And waiting to meet us at the pearly gates, when we die and go to heaven to be with them. Where can you find any of that teaching in the Bible? You cannot. Billions of people believe it. That is what is taught constantly in churches all over the world virtually every week.
But here’s the question, is that teaching true? The next question, does it matter if it is true? A lot of people get to where they don’t care whether it is in the Bible of not. And they don’t really care whether or not it’s true. It’s what they have always believed. It’s the tradition followed by millions of people, therefore they’re going to continue believing it and they’re going to continue following that teaching.
That will come as a thunderbolt to people who have never heard the truth about this subject before. Some of them will just slam the Bible shut and stop their ears. I hope you have the courage and open mindedness to search the scriptures and honestly find out whether or not that long–held and often–preached doctrine holds up or not—that doctrine that the saved will go to heaven.
What if you do search the scriptures with an honest and open mind and you find out that teaching is totally false, according to God’s Holy Word? What will you do then? Nobody is pressuring you. Nobody is looking over your shoulder. You are following along in your Bible in the privacy of your own home. Have the courage to take a look and see what it says about this subject. It doesn’t matter how long it has been taught. It doesn’t matter how many believe it.
What matters is: Is this false teaching—that the reward of the saved is that they will go to heaven after death—true? That is what really counts. Is it true or not?
Let’s turn now to John 3:13. Let’s see other scriptures that refer to this subject of heaven. Look at what Jesus Christ said. Here we are reading the words of the Savior Himself, and He says here in John 3:13.
13 And no man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
Or which is from heaven. Now, what about this right here? No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven. What does that mean?
Well, it means this: according to what Jesus Christ says here. Noah did not go to heaven. Abraham, Moses, Job, Elijah, they didn’t go to heaven. Not even David. So, here is Jesus Christ saying: None of the patriarchs, none of the prophets, none of the holy men of old, none of the holy women of old went to heaven.
He says it. No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven.
Let’s just notice another verse that backs that up regarding David. Now remember David was a man after God’s own heart. And other scriptures in the Bible show us plainly that he is going to be given eternal life and that he is going to be in the Kingdom of God. So, if there were anybody in all of history who would go to heaven—if that’s the reward of the saved—certainly David would be in heaven. Certainly he would have gone to heaven as soon as he died.
But we find in the book of Acts, right here in Acts 2:29, that didn’t happen. And we see the words of Jesus Christ who said: No man has ascended up to heaven. And look what is inspired here in Acts. Notice Acts 2.
You know, we do not have to get mad about this. We do not have to pitch a fit and get all wound up about it. Sure it can be electrifying understanding if you have heard this for the first time. And yes, it can mean you change your way of thinking if you really want to follow the truth. But this can be done in a kind and Christian way.
It can be based on an attitude of love, based on an attitude of wanting the truth and wanting to follow the truth. It can be based on a burning desire not to believe anything that’s false and to believe only what is true according to God’s Word. So this does not have to be an adversarial, argumentative kind of subject. It might mean animated discussions. It might mean going back and forth to really get to the bottom of it. But it doesn’t have to be fraught with hostility.
Let’s just read the Bible, understand it, and know that it’s the Word of God and therefore we believe what it says. Notice what it says here in Acts 2:29. This is Peter speaking here in his famous sermon given on the day of Pentecost, and look what he says here. Acts 2:29.
29 Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you of the patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and that his—
Grave, his tomb.
29—his sepulcher is with us unto this day.
So David didn’t go to heaven. He’s dead and buried it says. And the Bible says, even God says: David was a man after His own heart. Well, what about that in the light of, “well, when you die, you go to heaven.” How do we square that?
The Bible says the opposite. Don’t misunderstand. David is not lost and neither is anyone else who died in Christ. Your loved ones are not lost forever. They’re not in heaven and they’re not in hell. They’re in the grave, they are dead, and they are awaiting the resurrection.
So, this subject of heaven is not about who’s saved and who’s lost. It’s about the truth regarding where the saved will go and what condition the saved will be in when they receive their reward from God. So, do not misunderstand what we’re saying and do not misunderstand scriptures spun in whatever direction by all kinds of so–called experts.
Just look into the Bible, see what it says. Prove what it says, and believe what it says. Do that on this subject of heaven as the destination of the saved, and you are going to see that it does not say what you’ve been told it says—and probably told that for many, many years. You can’t find anywhere in the scripture that the reward of the saved is to go to heaven.What we found so far is that the reward of the saved is not heaven. First of all, when they die, they go to the grave and that’s where they are right now, awaiting the resurrection when they then will receive their reward, which will be eternal life in the Kingdom of God.
Let’s just see if that is true. Let’s just see if that’s what the Bible says. Let’s turn over here now to 1 Thessalonians 4:13.
You know, it is a wonderful blessing to have the Bible and to live in the country where you have freedom of belief. And you can take the Bible and turn in it and read it and not be under any kind of threat or duress, and ask God to show you what it actually says and show you what it actually means. And you can begin to understand the truth.
You can wipe away these false teachings. And even though people mean well and they’re sincere, they’re sincerely wrong in subjects about so many doctrines that are taught today and that so many believe come from the Bible. And when you check it up, many of them do not come from the Bible and they’re not taught properly and they’e not understood clearly.
You can be different from those who just blindly accept whatever they are taught. And they do not want to push themselves and go to the trouble of facing the reality of the scriptures. You can, and I hope you will be that way. If you are someone who wants proof and you are someone who’s really looking for the truth and you want to understand fully what the Bible actually says about heaven, you can understand it and you can know. The Bible is very clear on the subject. There’s no contradiction in the scriptures on any subject, including this subject of heaven.
Let’s turn over here now and continue, 1 Thessalonians 4:13. Paul is writing here and he says under inspiration of God:
13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others which have no hope.
Are asleep just simply means dead.
14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
What does that mean? Well, we’ll see as we go along here.
15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Eternal, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not precede them which are asleep.
Which are dead.
6 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven ---
So He’s coming back to this earth. He shall descend from heaven.
6—with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first:
They’re dead. They’re in the grave. They’re not in heaven. They are in the grave. If they’re in heaven, why are they going to rise when Christ comes? They’re dead. They’re in the grave and they’re going to rise first—and the dead in Christ shall rise first.
17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Thessalonians 4:17
17—so shall we ever be with the Lord.
Where’s He going to be? Is He going to be in the clouds? Is He going to turn around and go back up to heaven? Wherever He’s going to be, that’s where resurrected Christians are going to be. They’re going to be with Him as great glorified spirit beings.Now, is He going to go back up to heaven? No. Let’s just see what the Bible says about this.
Let’s turn over here to Zechariah 14:4. Now, this is God’s Word too. God inspired this. And Jesus Christ said that we are to live by every word of God. Well, these are the words of God. He inspired Zechariah to write these words, and look what he wrote. Zechariah 14:4
He’s speaking about the day of the Lord or the day that the Lord will come back to this earth. .
Zechariah 14 verse 1
1 Behold, the day of the Lord comes, —
Now, let’s notice verse 4.
4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, —
Now, the Mount of Olives is on this earth, correct? This is not an allegory. This is not a metaphor. This is not some poem or some spiritual song. These are God’s words, inspired by God. These are scriptural truths that we’re reading here, and it says here that when Christ comes again:
4 And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south.
Let’s notice the last part of verse 5.
5—and the Lord my God shall come, —
Come back to this earth. Come back to the Mount of Olives.
5—and all the saints with thee.
Or with Him, and all the saints with Him.
So now we see that when it says in the Bible that the dead will be resurrected, meet Jesus Christ in the clouds and so shall it ever be with the Lord, He then goes over to the Middle East, to Jerusalem and descends to the Mount of Olives and that’s where He is. He’s on this earth. And all His saints with Him will descend to the Mount of Olives. That’s what the Bible says.
And then what will He do? Well, notice Zechariah 14:9.
9 And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: —
See, it does not say He’s going to go back to heaven. Now, what you read here in Zechariah 14 has never happened before. We’re not reading about history here. We’re reading about a prophecy that is going to take place in the near future when Jesus Christ comes back to this earth. He descends and the resurrected saints meet Him in the air. And then He goes over to the Mount of Olives and descends down to the Mount of Olives and the saints who are resurrected with Him. And then what does He do and where will he be and where will those resurrected saints be?
It says right here in verse 9.
9 And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: —
9—over all the earth in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one.
So, are we going to read what the Bible says, believe what the Bible says and inculcate the truth into our thinking? Or are we going to push what the Bible says aside and hold to the traditions and false teachings of men who continue to preach and teach the reward of the saved is to go to heaven?
Now, let’s turn to Revelation 5:9. By the way, wherever you look in God’s Word, it’s consistent on this subject of the reward of the saved.
Notice here in Revelation 5:9. Once again, here we are in God’s Word. You can go to the Old Testament, you go to the New Testament, you go to the Gospels, you go to the teaching of the apostles, you will not find that those who are saved are going to heaven.
You will find that those who are saved are going to be given eternal life to be with the Lord wherever He is. And He’s going to be on this earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. And those who are given salvation will be in His government ruling with Him. That’s what the Bible says.
Just notice here in Revelation 5:9.
9 And they sung a new song, saying, you are worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for you were slain, and have redeemed us to God by your blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;
10 And have made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
We started out by showing the meek will inherit the earth. And now we see way over here in Revelation, they will reign on the earth as kings and priests. Isn’t that tremendous? The truth does set you free. The truth is way more inspiring, way more exciting, way more encouraging than some kind of concocted theory that comes from men who supposedly are intellectual and scholarly, and who ought to know what the Bible teaches because after all, they’ve gone to institutions of higher learning to know it and to learn it.
But wait a minute. You don’t have to have some kind of intellectual degree to know what the Bible says. You can open the Bible and read it with your own eyes. And what does it say here? We shall reign on the earth. It doesn’t say heaven.
Let’s continue. Revelation 20:6. It even tells us about the Kingdom of God being on this earth, ruled by the King Himself, Jesus Christ, and that it will restore the earth and renew the earth for a thousand years.
Notice here in Revelation 20:6.
6 Blessed and holy is he that has part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.
Reign with Him on this earth. So, dedicated Christians lives out their lives, they die. They’re put in the grave, they are now dead. Jesus Christ comes back to this earth. He resurrects them. They meet Him in the air. They go with Him over to the Mount of Olives, descend with Him. The Mount of Olives cleaves in two. Jesus Christ sets up His government, headquartered in Jerusalem. And He now is King over all the earth. And those who have obeyed Him and endured to the end are now kings and priests and members of His government, as teachers and leaders. And they then reign with Him a thousand years.
That’s what it says right here in Revelation 20:6. It doesn’t say they’re going to reign with Him in heaven for a thousand years. It says they shall reign with Him a thousand years, and we’ve already seen that reign will be on this earth.
Now, what will those who are in the Kingdom of God as spirit beings do?
You know, when you ask what are we going to do when we go to heaven, to those who believe the saved will go to heaven. They don’t know. There are teachings that you just sit there staring on God. That’s called the beatific vision. There are other teachings that, “Well, you know, you’ll just be there forever and ever and ever.” Doing what? Floating around on a cloud? Singing and playing a harp?
You don’t find anything in the Bible about what people will be doing when they go to heaven. And you do not find anywhere in the Bible they will be going to heaven. But when you look at the truth of the Bible and you find out that the reward of the saved is eternal life in the Kingdom of God—which will be established on this earth under Jesus Christ, the King—you also find out some of the things that those individuals who were saved and made kings and priests and teachers will be doing. And it is tremendously exciting and productive. And it is for the good of everybody and for the glory of God.
Notice right here in Revelation 2:26.
26 And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations:
The nations are not in heaven.
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.
28 And I will give him the morning star.
29 He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.
It doesn’t mean He is going to be a bully. It doesn’t mean that He is going to rule over them and just smash them and crush them. It’s going to be rulership that is guided by love and concern and care. There’s going to be healing and teaching and renewal. There’s going to be tremendous help and tremendous mercy and compassion shown.
Those who rebel, those who rear up against God, those who want to do their own thing and refuse to be taught and refuse to cooperate with the government of God that will then be ruling the earth—then they’re going to be dealt with very severely as it says here in verse 27.
27 And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; —
And if they don’t repent, they will be smashed. Because rebellion is not going to be tolerated in the Kingdom of God. But that tells you in only one place. We could go to other places in the Bible. That tells you right here, in Revelation 2:26, that those who are saved and in the Kingdom of God are going to be given a tremendous amount of authority and tremendous challenges and opportunities to build and develop and produce wonderful, exciting conditions and things on this earth for the thousands and millions and later on billions, on through the thousand year reign of Christ, produce wonderful things for them, and to the glory of God the Father.
29 He that has an ear, let him hear —
Do you have an ear? Will you hear?
Let’s turn now to Romans 6:23. It talks about, in specific detail, the reward of the saved. Here is a very cogent statement telling us what the gift of God is pertaining to salvation and pertaining to being saved. It says Roman 6:23.
23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Eternal life, that’s the gift. Now, where will you spend that eternal life? Well, you are going to spend it with Jesus Christ—in the Kingdom of God. But where will He be?
Well, we have already seen He’s going to be on this earth reigning as King of kings and Lord of lords for a thousand years.
Let’s notice over here in John 14:1. This is a very famous verse that’s used to try to teach people that the reward of the saved is heaven. Does it really say that?
You look at the scriptures that are used to try to back up this false teaching that the saved will go to heaven. And read what they actually say, and you will see they have been spun and twisted. You will see with your own eyes, they don’t say what you’ve been told they say. And you stack them up with the scriptures we’ve already gone through today and you’ll see them in a new light and you’ll really understand the meaning of them.
Notice here in John 14:1.
4:1 Let not your heart be troubled: you believe in God, believe also in me.
Jesus Christ says.2 In my Father’s house are many mansions: —
2—if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
That’s how much He loves us and cares for us and He has big things in mind for us in His family and in His kingdom.
3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, —
See, we see that again. He is going to come back.
3—I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.
And we have already seen where He’s going to be. He’s going to come again. We’re going to be with Him. And we’re all going to be on this earth and we’ll be in His Kingdom. And we’ll be in the family of God, as glorified spirit beings—kings and priests and teachers; a part of the government of God, under the authority of Jesus Christ, the King of this earth. And that kingdom will then rule the world for a thousand years and then later on for all eternity. And we want to close with a passage of the scripture that perhaps you haven’t seen before or you’ve overlooked or it hasn’t been taught properly—which backs up all that we are saying here.
Let’s go over here to Revelation 21:1. I’m sure you have heard of the phrase, “the new heaven and the new earth”. But have you followed up on that and read exactly what the Bible has to say about the new heaven and the new earth?
Notice here in Revelation 21:1. John under inspiration said this:
1 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.
2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Coming down from God out of heaven to this earth, but continue now in verse 3.
3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
So we see this new heaven and new earth. And we see the holy city coming down from God to this earth, the new Jerusalem. And this earth is ruled by Jesus Christ, the King, over the Kingdom of God—the government of God—and includes all those who were saved, who have been given eternal life as a part of that government in that kingdom. And eventually will include all people who have ever lived who really yield to Almighty God fully. And now the family of God is on this earth. And the new Jerusalem comes down to this earth and establishes the throne of God on this earth. And then the whole universe is ruled from this earth because it says right here, God Himself shall be with them and be their God.
This is much more inspiring, much more uplifting, and much more encouraging because this is the truth. Do we have the courage, the integrity, the wherewithal to actually look into the Bible, see what it actually says about this subject of the saved going to heaven? And do we have the strength to admit we’re wrong, if we are, and to follow the truth?
Maybe you ought to talk to your minister about this and see what he has to say about this subject. Maybe you ought to talk to your friends and family and say, “Wait just minute, we don’t need to argue, but what does the Bible actually say about heaven being the reward of the saved”?
I hope we will love the truth, settle for nothing short of the truth, including this subject of the reward of the saved.
This is Charles Bryce, with the Enduring Church of God
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