Are There Two Choices or Options for Christians:
Heaven or Earth?

A variety of texts are used by some to prove that Christians living today may have a "new earth" hope as opposed to a "new heaven" hope. That is, disciples of the Nazarene have a "choice or option" whether they will go to heaven or live on earth forever. What are these texts?

Consider those in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures first.

Psalm 37:29 -- "The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it." Is it fair to conclude that this verse teaches Christians have two hopes? Or, does the text confirm that ultimately only the righteous will possess the earth and live on it forever? We believe it is a given that the original hope God purposed for humankind was everlasting life on earth in Edenic perfection. This was the hope of Godís ancient servants.

Psalm 104:5 -- "He has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever." This text only proves the earth is permanent and will remain forever. It say nothing about the earth as a hope for Christians living today.

Isaiah 2:4 -- "And he will certainly render judgment among the nations and set matters straight respecting many peoples. And they will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore." This text proves nothing about an earthly hope for Christians. It assures a peaceful condition under Messiahís reign. The text may be applied to that union between Jews and Gentiles as discussed by Paul in Ephesians chapter 2.

Isaiah 11:6-9 -- "And the wolf will actually reside for a while with the male lamb, and with the kid the leopard itself will lie down, and the calf and the maned young lion and the well-fed animal all together; and a mere little boy will be leader over them. 7 And the cow and the bear themselves will feed; together their young ones will lie down. And even the lion will eat straw just like the bull. 8 And the sucking child will certainly play upon the hole of the cobra; and upon the light aperture of a poisonous snake will a weaned child actually put his own hand. 9 They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea." This text is misapplied to a new earth under Messiah though the words would harmonize with conditions to obtain in the new earth, the realm of Messiahís kingdom. Verse 1 is alluded to by Romans 15:12 and Revelation 22:16. Verse 12 is likely the source for Jesusí words at Matthew 24:30. The actual fulfillment would have a strong application to Messiahís work as the King of all the earth, though it may also have a spiritual application to his first century work among his disciples, the lost sheep of the house of Israel. It proves nothing regarding the earth being a choice or option for Christian disciples.

Isaiah 35:1-6 -- "The wilderness and the waterless region will exult, and the desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. 2 Without fail it will blossom, and it will really be joyful with joyousness and with glad crying out. The glory of Leb'a∑non itself must be given to it, the splendor of Car'mel and of Shar'on. There will be those who will see the glory of Jehovah, the splendor of our God. 3 Strengthen the weak hands, you people, and make the knees that are wobbling firm. 4 Say to those who are anxious at heart: "Be strong. Do not be afraid. Look! your own God will come with vengeance itself, God even with a repayment. He himself will come and save you people." 5 At that time the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. 6 At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does, and the tongue of the speechless one will cry out in gladness. For in the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain." This text is misapplied to a future new earth though the language might be apropos for conditions under Messiahís reign. Paul quotes verse 3 and applies it to conditions within spiritual Israel in his own day. (Hebrews 12:12) It proves nothing about a Christian hope of living forever in a new earth.

Isaiah 65:17 -- "For here I am creating new heavens and a new earth; and the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart." Though this is a general hope for the Israel of God, it is the "new heavens" which rules over its realm or territory, the "new earth." The "kings" (Revelation 5:9, 10; 20:4, 6) will compose the "new heavens" while non-Christian earthly nations will make up the "new earth." Compare Isaiah 51:16, "With the shadow of my hand I shall certainly cover you, in order to plant the heavens and lay the foundation of the earth and say to Zion, 'You are my people.'" The text does not prove Christians have two choices or options where they might live.

Consider those texts used in the Christian Bible

Matthew 6:10 -- "Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth." This text does not prove there are two options or choices for Christians. It assures us that Godís will for the earth will be realized. No where does the Nazarene give the "new earth" as a choice or option for his followers. Rather, he says: "That where I am they may be." Note our Lordís prayer at John 17:5, 24: "So now you, Father, glorify me alongside yourself with the glory that I had alongside you [IN HEAVEN] before the world was. ... Father, as to what you have given me, I wish that, where I am [IN HEAVEN], they also may be with me, in order to behold my glory that you have given me."

Jesus further taught that his disciples would find their reward within the Fatherís kingdom, a heavenly realm. "At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father." (Matthew 13:43) This "kingdom" is heavenly where Godís throne is. Isaiah 66:1 says, "This is what Jehovah has said: ĎThe heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool.í" In the Nazareneís Apocalypse the Son promises: "To the one that conquers I will grant to sit down with me on my throne, even as I conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne." (Revelation 3:21) That throne is heavenly as Revelation 4:1, 2 reports: "After these things I saw, and, look! an opened door in heaven, and the first voice that I heard was as of a trumpet, speaking with me, saying: ĎCome on up here, and I shall show you the things that must take place.í After these things I immediately came to be in [the power of the] spirit: and, look! a throne was in its position in heaven, and there is one seated upon the throne." The Saints are seen in heaven before this Throne. (Revelation 7:9-17;15:2; 19:1, 6) They are seen raised to heaven. (Revelation 11:12, 13)

2 Peter 3:13 -- "But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell." Here Peter quotes Isaiah 65:17. Nothing in this verse suggest that Christians have two options or choices. Peter himself writes that the Saints will become "sharers in divine nature." (2 Peter 1:4) He says the Saints will gain "entrance into the everlasting kingdom." (2 Peter 1:11) Paul believed this was a "heavenly kingdom." (2 Timothy 4:18) Paul said further that this new personal residence was to be, not one of human or fleshly origin, but "everlasting in the heavens." (2 Corinthians 5:1)

Revelation 21:4 -- "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." Some would apply this text to the "new earth" however the phrase about tears and death is taken from Isaiah 25:8. This verse is quoted by Paul at 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 and applied to those who gain immortality in the heavens. Nothing in Revelation gives any indication that the Saints will inherit a new earth and live on this globe forever.

Summary

There is only "one hope" Paul teaches. (Ephesians 4:4) And, this is heavenly. (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) There is no basis for asserting that Christians have two choices or two options: heavenly or earthly. Though the hope of all Christians today ought to be heavenly (residing in Godís celestial presence) this does not mean the Lamb (New Jerusalem) will not descend to this earth and rule here for the Thousand Years. (Revelation 21:1-4; 5:9, 10) What kind of contact those of the "heavenly kind" will have with those inhabitants of the earth is unknown. It is also unknown what happens after the Thousand Years.

One Invitation to One Hope

Matthew 22:1-14 -- In further reply Jesus again spoke to them with illustrations, saying: 2 "The kingdom of the heavens has become like a man, a king [JEHOVAH], that made a marriage feast for his son [JESUS]. 3 And he sent forth his slaves to call [GRK = KALESAI = INVITE] those [JEWS] invited [GRK = KEKLEMENOUS] to the marriage feast, but they were unwilling to come. 4 Again he sent forth other slaves [APOSTLES], saying, 'Tell those [JEWS] invited [GRK = KEKLEMENOUS = CALLED/INVITED]: "Look! I have prepared my dinner, my bulls and fattened animals are slaughtered, and all things are ready. Come to the marriage feast."' 5 But unconcerned they went off, one to his own field, another to his commercial business; 6 but the rest, laying hold of his slaves, treated them insolently and killed them. 7 "But the king grew wrathful, and sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and burned their city. [JERUSALEM] 70 AD] 8 Then he said to his slaves, 'The marriage feast indeed is ready, but those invited [GRK = KEKLEMENOI = CALLED/INVITED] were not worthy. 9 Therefore go to the roads leading out of the city, and anyone [GENTILES] you find invite [GRK = KALESATE = CALL] to the marriage feast.' 10 Accordingly those slaves went out to the roads and gathered together all they found, both wicked and good; and the room for the wedding ceremonies was filled with those reclining at the table. 11When the king came in to inspect the guests [THE PAROUSIA JUDGMENT] he caught sight there of a man not clothed with a marriage garment. 12 So he said to him, 'Fellow, how did you get in here not having on a marriage garment?' He was rendered speechless. 13 Then the king said to his servants, 'Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the darkness outside. There is where [his] weeping and the gnashing of [his] teeth will be.' 14 For there are many invited [GRK = KLETOI = CALLED], but few chosen." [NWT]

Does it seem fair there is only one invitation or calling: to share in the marriage festivities? (Compare Revelation 19:7; 21:2) Though it is a blessing to accept the invitation, or the calling, note what is important in Jesusí point: "chosen." Compare Revelation 17:14, "These will battle with the Lamb, but, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb will conquer them. Also, those called [GRK = KLETOI = INVITED] and CHOSEN and FAITHFUL with him [will do so]."

Let us pray that we obey Peter: "For this reason, brothers, all the more do your utmost to make the calling [GRK = KLESIN = INVITATION] and choosing of you sure for yourselves; for if you keep on doing these things you will by no means ever fail. In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to you the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." (2 Peter 1:10, 11) If our Father has loving and graciously purposed that those who are loyal disciples of the Nazarene be blessed with spiritual, celestial, heavenly existence in His Presence, will the clay say to the Potter: Why did you make me this way?

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Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller

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