IS HEAVEN THE REWARD OF THE SAVED?

Many  hold  the popular belief that heaven is the reward  of  the saved.  However, even among those who believe that heaven is  the ultimate  reward of the saved, there are many different ideas  as to when, where, and how one gets to heaven. The concept of going to heaven after death is almost a universally  accepted teaching among the world's Christian religions. To  even question this teaching would seem like  blasphemy to many who believe heaven is the reward  of  the saved.

However,  what  does the Bible really teach about the reward  of  the saved? If the dead in Christ go to heaven, we should be able to find abundant proof within the Bible showing when, where, and how people obtain this reward. Can this type of  documentation be found in the Bible? You may be surprised to find that  it cannot,  but what is found in the Bible about the reward  of  the saved is far more exciting than the nebulous idea of going off to heaven without a clue as to what one would do there for  eternity.

THE WORD HEAVEN

There are three heavens referred to in the Bible:

Of  these  three heavens, most believe that their  reward  is  to inhabit  the third heaven where God dwells. But, is this really the reward of the saved?

WAS HEAVEN EVER PROMISED AS A REWARD?

Is there any solid proof in the Bible that anyone was ever  promised  residence in heaven  as a reward of salvation?  This  question  is vitally important in order to gain an  understanding  of what the Bible really teaches about the awesome rewards of  the saved.

In  order  to expose this counterfeit teaching, this  study  explains each scripture that has been used to support the false doctrine of heaven as the reward of the saved. Moreover, this study shows that this doctrine has no  solid  scriptural foundation.  Those  who teach it must rely  on  mis-translations, obscure scriptures, and traditions to support their belief.

NO MAN HAS EVER GONE TO HEAVEN

For  centuries churches have tried to get their converts  to  set their sights on going to heaven when they die. However, do the saved  go to heaven  when they die?  Does  anyone go to heaven when they die or  at any other time?  Will anybody go to heaven?   Has  anybody gone to heaven, and if so, who and when?

Jesus himself said that "No man has ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man . . ." (Jn.3:13 KJV).

Even  the  Jews  of Jesus' time knew that no man  was  in  heaven. Notice  what  they said while condemning Jesus:

"Then  said  the Jews  to  him, Now we know that you have a  devil.  Abraham  is dead, and the prophets; and you say, If a man keep my sayings, he shall  never  taste  of death. Are you greater than  our  father Abraham, which is dead?. . ." (Jn.8:52-53 KJV).

Peter says that even after Jesus' death and resurrection, David was still dead and buried. David had not been resurrected and sent to heaven:

"Men  and brethren, let me freely speak to you of  the  patriarch David, that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulcher is with us to this day. . .. For  David is not ascended into the heavens:. . ."  (Acts 2:29; 34 KJV).

In  the book of Hebrews, there is a long list of righteous  individuals who died without yet receiving their rewards:

"Who  through  faith  subdued  kingdoms,  wrought  righteousness, obtained  promises, stopped the mouths of  lions,  Quenched  the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of  weakness were  made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to  flight  the armies of aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and  others were tortured, not accepting deliverance;  that  they might obtain a better resurrection:" (Heb.11:33-35 KJV).

If  any are worthy to receive the promises that God has  for  the righteous,  it would have surely been these champions  of the faith. Among  these great men and women of faith are Abraham and  Moses who  God called his friends, King David who loved God with  great zeal, and Sara who believed God and bore a child in her old  age. However, about thirty years after Jesus' death and resurrection (when  the  letter  to the Hebrews was  written),  these  righteous people were still dead in their graves; they did not  receive their reward then and they still have not received it:

"And these all, having obtained a good report through faith,  received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect" (Heb.11:39-40 KJV). See also v13.

The simple truth is that Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses, David,  the prophets, and the righteous of all ages are dead, not alive in heaven  or  some other place. However, upon the return  of  Jesus Christ, they will be resurrected and receive their reward. For an explanation of the state of the dead see our study paper on the subject.

WHAT ARE THE REWARDS OF THE RIGHTEOUS?

Believe it or not, the reward for being righteous is not to  float aimlessly around heaven playing harp music for eternity. There is something  far more spectacular in store for those  who are accounted worthy of salvation:

"But  as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,  neither have  entered  into the heart of man, the things  which  God  has prepared for them that love him" (1.Cor.2:9 KJV).

The following are just some of the rewards for righteousness:

This list contains only a few of the enormous rewards that God has  promised  to the saints. The magnitude of  the  rewards  for those  who obtain salvation is so far beyond our imagination  and dreams that it defies human comprehension.

THE BOOK OF LIFE

For the righteous, the  Book  of Life is the most important book that  has  ever been written, because their  names  are  recorded within its pages. However, some feel that, because the saints' names are recorded in heaven, they will go to heaven after  death. Therefore,  it  is important to know what the Bible  really  says about the Book of Life and how it pertains to the righteous.

In  beseeching  God to spare the Israelites who had  rebelled  at Sinai, Moses says the following:

"Yet now, if you will forgive their sin"; and if not, blot me,  I pray  you, out of your book which you have written. And the  Lord said  to Moses, Whosoever has sinned against me, him will I  blot out of my book" (Ex.32:32-33 KJV). See also Psa.69:28; Rev.21:27; 22:19.

The following are three major things to notice about this book:

1. It is God's property.

2. God controls whose name can be placed into or taken out of it.

3. If a person's name is taken out of it, they will not have eternal life.

It  is very evident that the righteous have their names  recorded in the Book of Life, which is in heaven. However, there is  absolutely nothing anywhere in the scriptures that remotely indicates that the saved are going to heaven because their names are  written  in the Book of Life. It is obvious from the many  references throughout the Bible that refer to the Book of Life, that this book is  a record, not a permit to reside in heaven:

"Behold , I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over, the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any  means hurt  you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the  spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice, because your  names  are written   in heaven"  (Lk.10:19-20 KJV).  See  also   Phil.4:3, Heb.12:23; Rev.13:7-8;17:8.  

"He  that  overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels" (Rev.3:5 KJV).

IMMORTALITY

The quality of life that the righteous are promised is  comparable  to God's quality of life. God is a spirit-being  who inherently possesses the highest form of life: immortality on the divine  plane of existence. This kind of life springs forth  from itself; it is not dependent on any other source to sustain it;  it is self sustaining:

"Behold  I  show you a mystery; We shall not all  sleep,  but  we shall all be changed, In a moment in the twinkling of an eye,  at the  last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead  shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this  corruptible  must put on incorruption, and this mortal must  put  on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption,  and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then  shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up  in  victory"  (1.Cor.15:51-54 KJV).  See  also  2.Tim.1:9-10; Rev.20:6.

"To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for  glory and honor and immortality, eternal life:" (Rom.2:7 KJV).

It is abundantly clear that God intends to share immortality with those  he  has called to salvation. Immortality  represents  the ultimate reward for faithfulness to God.

"Whereby  are given to us exceeding great and precious  promises: that  by these you might be partakers of the divine nature. . ." (2.Pet.1:4 KJV).

ETERNAL LIFE

Immortality  and  eternal  life are rewards that allow  a person to pass beyond this physical existence:

"I  tell you the truth . . . no one who has left home or  wife  or brothers  or parents or children for the sake of the  Kingdom  of God  will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life" (Lk.18:29-30 NIV).

"Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life,  whereto  you  are also called, and have professed  a  good  profession before many witnesses" (1.Tim.6:12 KJV; Lk.20:34-35).

"For  the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God  is  eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23 KJV).

"And  this is the promise that he has promised us,  even  eternal life" (1.Jn.2:25 KJV; Tit.3:7).

BECOME A SON OF GOD

Many believe that even if they do gain eternal life, they will be doomed  to some meaningless existence. However, this assumption could  not be farther from the truth:

"Wherefore  come out from among them, and be you  separate,  says the  Lord,  and touch not the unclean thing; and I  will  receive you,  And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my  sons  and daughters, says the Lord Almighty," (2.Cor.6:17-18 KJV).

Part of the reward of righteousness is becoming a spiritual son of God the Father and a brother of Jesus Christ:

"For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are  all things, in bringing many sons into glory, to make the captain  of their  salvation  perfect through sufferings. For  both he  that sanctifies  and  they who are sanctified are all one:  for  which cause  he  is not ashamed to call them  brethren,"  (Heb.2:10-11 KJV).

Jesus  who was the Creator God is the one who suffered death so that you and I can become children of God the Father.

"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons  of  God, even to them that believe on his  name:"  (Jn.1:12 KJV). See also Jn.3:1-3; Rom.8:18.

"For  whom  he did foreknow he also did predestinate to  be  conformed  to the image of his Son, that he might be the  first-born among many brethren" (Rom.8:29 KJV).

"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet  appear what  we  shall be: but we know that, when he  shall  appear,  we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1.Jn.3:2  KJV). See also Phil.3:21.

What  the apostle Paul reveals in these scriptures is  truly  astounding; to  become a son of God and a brother of  Jesus  is  a tremendous reward with truly awesome implications.

JOINT-HEIR WITH CHRIST

Through the righteous sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we can become heirs of the Kingdom of God.

"The spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the children  of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God,  and joint-heirs  with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him,  that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the  sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with  the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom.8:16-18 KJV).

"But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his  Son, made  of  a woman, made under the law, To redeem them  that  were under  the law, that we might receive the adoption of  sons.  And because  you are sons, God has sent forth the spirit of  his  Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father. Wherefore you are no  more a  servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God  through Christ" (Gal.4:4-7  KJV).

INHERIT ALL THINGS

"In many times and in many ways of old, God spoke to the  fathers by the prophets: in these last days he spoke to us in the Son, by whom  He appointed heir of all; through whom he indeed  made  the ages" (Heb.1:1-2 Para.).  See also verses 5-8.

"He  that overcomes shall inherit all things; and I will  be  his God, and he shall be my son" (Rev.21:7 KJV).

What  an  amazing reward! Not only are the righteous  heirs but also joint-heirs with Jesus. Moreover, they will share in the inheritance of all that exists now and forever.

INHERIT THE EARTH

Part of the promise that God gave to Abraham was that he and  his descendants would inherit the earth and be a blessing to  all nations  forever. See Gen.12:2-3; 13;15-16; 15:7, 18:18;  26:1-5; Rom.4:13.

"And  if you be Christ's, then are you Abraham's seed, and  heirs according to the promise" (Gal.3:29 KJV).

"Blessed  are  the  meek:  for  they  shall  inherit  the  earth" (Matt.5:5 KJV).

"For  evildoers  shall be cut off: but those that wait  upon  the Lord,  they  shall inherit the earth" (Psa.37:9  KJV).  See also Psa.37:11,22,29,34; 72:8.

The scriptures clearly show that, when the righteous become spirit-beings, they will inherit the earth. But, what possible use  could they  have  for a physical earth? It seems  that  the  earth would  be of no use to them unless God is not finished  with  his plan for the salvation of humanity after Christ's return. Therein lies one of  the purposes for the earth as an inheritance; it is to be inhabited by both spirit  and physical beings as  God's plan for the salvation of humanity continues after Christ's return.

INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF GOD

"Blessed  are  the poor in spirit; for theirs is the  kingdom  of heaven" (Matt.5:3 KJV).

Here, Jesus speaks of those who will obtain the ultimate joy of sharing the rewards of the Kingdom of God with him because of their humility of spirit. The undeniable fact is that there is a Kingdom [a government] of Heaven, which is owned by God the Father, and the righteous  are to inherit it.

When  Jesus told the parable of the shepherd dividing  his  sheep from  the goats, he clearly reveals that the Kingdom of  God  was prepared  as an inheritance for the righteous before mankind  was created:

"When  the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all  the  holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his  glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep  from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but  the goats on the left. Then shall the King [Jesus] say to them on his right hand,  Come, you blessed of my Father  [God  the  Father], inherit  the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of  the world:" (Matt.25:31-34 KJV). See also Jms.2:5.

HAVE ACCESS TO NEW JERUSALEM

Not  only do the righteous inherit the Kingdom of God  but also  they have access to New Jerusalem from where the Father will rule all of his creation.

"And  there  in  no wise enter into it any  thing  that  defiles, neither  whatsoever works abomination, or makes a lie: but  they which are written in the lamb's book of life" (Rev.21:27 KJV).

"Blessed  are they that do his commandments, that they  may  have right  to  the tree of life, and may enter in through  the  gates into the city" (Rev.22:14 KJV). See also Rev. 21:1 through 22:13.

CO-RULERSHIP WITH CHRIST

"To him that overcomes will I grant to sit with me in my  throne, even  as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father  in  his throne" (Rev.3:21 KJV).

"And  he  that overcomes, and keeps my works to the end,  to  him will I give power over the nations: 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" (Rev.2:26-27 KJV).

TO BECOME A KING AND A PRIEST

"John  to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace  to  you, and  peace,  from him which is, and which was, and  which  is  to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; And from  Jesus  Christ, who is the faithful witness, and  the  first begotten  of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the  earth. To  him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in  his  own blood, And has made us kings and priests to God and his  Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen"  (Rev.1:4-6 KJV). See also Rev.5:10.

Here,  John speaks of  the future when he says that the elect  are kings  and priests. This  indicates that as far as the Father is  concerned, this reward and responsibility has already been given to his elect children.

CITIZENSHIP IS IN HEAVEN

"But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a  Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ," (Phil.3:20 NIV).

Some believe that this verse confirms that heaven is the reward of the saved, because it calls the elect citizens of heaven. It is true that the  righteous are not of this world, although they must  live in it and be subject to many of it's laws until the  return  of Christ.

Jesus  says,

"If you were of the world, the world would love  his own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen  you out of the world, therefore the world hates you" (Jn.15:19 KJV).

Paul  states,

"Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as  though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be  you reconciled to God" (2.Cor.5:20 KJV).

Because one's citizenship is in a certain place does not mean one must live there.

IN MY FATHER'S HOUSE

Jesus  tells his disciples:

"In my Father's house are many  rooms; if  it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there  to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may  be where I am" (Jn.14:2-3 NIV).

Because this is one of the primary scriptures many quote to support their  belief in going to heaven after death, it is important to discover what Jesus really says here.

The Greek word for 'rooms' is 'mone', which can  mean 'staying', 'tarrying,' 'abiding,' or 'place to stay' (e.g., an inn or watch house).  In the New Testament, it only occurs twice and denotes a dwelling place or an abode. Moreover,  there  are  many Rabbinic parallels that denote the  phrase "my father's house" as a place of rest.

In this scripture, Jesus makes a statement of fact. He will go to prepare  a place for the righteous where his Father  dwells.  The Greek word for 'place' is 'topos', which can mean a geographical location, but it can also be used in its abstract form to mean  a  position or office of endeavor. Other scriptures show that what Jesus is preparing is not only a space to inhabit but also  positions and offices of authority within which the elect will function.

Because Jesus says he will come back and take the elect to the place  he has prepared for them, many feel this means that they are  going to be in heaven with Christ. However, the scriptures clearly show that ecclesiastical  and governmental positions will be given  to  the righteous through which they will govern the physical earth  with  Christ for at least a  thousand years.

Additionally,  Jesus said nothing about heaven being the place of  reward or  residence for the saints; he merely states that he was  going  to prepare  a place for them and take them there so they  can be where he is. Many scriptures show that after his  return,  he will administer the government of God over the earth  from Jerusalem. See Isa.11:5-9; 27:13; 65:17-25; Mic.4:1-7;  Zech.8:3-4.

In John 14, Jesus merely explains that he would go to heaven to  prepare  positions  and offices of authority and  responsibility  in which the elect will function in the Kingdom of God. Just because the elect  have access to heavenly Jerusalem (Rev.20:6,  21:27; 22:14) does not prevent them from reigning on earth with Jesus.

There  is no doubt that Jesus went to heaven to prepare  a  place for  the  elect  and there is no doubt that the  elect  will  be wherever Jesus is going to be. In fact, the place where Jesus is going to be is right here on earth with the righteous who have obtained  salvation.

OUR HOPE IS IN HEAVEN

Some feel that because there are scriptures which state that the hope of the righteous is laid up in heaven, the reward of the  saved will  be to go to heaven. But just what is this hope that is laid  up in heaven for the righteous? Is it to reside in heaven forever or is it something very different?

"We  give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus  Christ, praying  always for you, Since we heard of your faith  in  Christ Jesus, and of the love which you have to all the saints, For  the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof you heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel;" (Col.1:3-5 KJV).

The word for 'hope' in this text is the Greek word 'elpis', which connotes 'faith', 'trust', 'assurance', 'an expectation  of  the future', and 'comfort in distress'.

Paul  says the hope of the righteous is reserved in  heaven. But, what is this hope that is reserved there?

Paul does not say that our hope is to go to heaven or that our hope is to be with Christ in heaven. He just says that our  hope (faith, trust, assurance, expectation) is laid up in heaven.

Paul  had  faith that God was going to provide many things  as  a reward for righteousness and they were  reserved in heaven awaiting distribution to the elect of God:

"Henceforth  there  is laid up for me a crown  of  righteousness, which  the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that  day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing" (2.Tim.4:8 KJV).

"Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ,  according  to  the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging  of  the truth  which is after godliness; In hope of eternal  life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began" (Tit.1:1-2 KJV). See also Tit.3:7; 1.Thes.5:8.

Many of the things that are laid up in heaven as rewards will be given according to the effort of each individual. Jesus says, "But lay up for  yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust does  corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor  steal" (Matt.6:20 KJV).

How does one lay up treasures in heaven? Many  scriptures document that it takes  special  effort to gain rewards outside of the gift  of  immortality and eternal life:

"Behold  I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will  give to everyone according to what he has done" (Rev.22:12 NIV)."Watch  out  that you do not lose what you have worked for,  but that you may be rewarded fully" (2.Jn.8 NIV).

The  hope that is laid up in heaven is the faith that God  the Father and Jesus Christ who are in heaven will  fulfill their  promises  to give us our rewards in that  great  day  when Jesus returns to rule the earth.

REWARDS ARE RESERVED IN HEAVEN

There  are many scriptures showing that the rewards for  the  saints are  reserved  in heaven. However, do any of these  references  state that  the saint's reward is heaven, or that they  must reside in heaven to receive their reward?

"Rejoice,  and  be exceeding glad: for great is  your  reward  in heaven:. . ." (Matt.5:12 KJV; Lk.6:23).

"Take  heed  that you do not your alms [i.e., acts  of  goodness] before  men, to be seen of them: otherwise you have no reward  of your Father which is in heaven" (Matt.6:1 KJV).

"Blessed  be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus  Christ,  which according  to  his abundant mercy has begotten us  again  to  a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades  not away,  reserved  in heaven for you" (1.Pet.1:3-4 KJV).  See also Acts 23:6; 24:15, Tit.1:2.

There is no denying that the above scriptures show that the reward of  the  righteous is reserved for them in heaven.   However, are there any clear scriptures that say heaven  is the  reward of the saved or that the inheritance of the saints  is  to live  in heaven forever? No, there are not! In fact, nowhere in the  entire Bible does it say that going to heaven is the  reward of the saved.

SUMMARY

If  the righteous were to go directly to heaven at death to receive  their reward, why would they need to be resurrected (1.Cor.15:52-53)? It does not make any  sense  to resurrect (restore to life) people who are already alive. Moreover, all of the scriptures that speak in great detail about the resurrection of God's elect would be meaningless, and there would be no reason for Christ  to return and  bring the elect's reward with him if they have already received it.

Remember  that  Paul said he and the other elect children of God will receive their reward in the day that Jesus returns to earth:

"Henceforth  there  is laid up for me a crown  of  righteousness, which  the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that  day: and not to me only, but to all them also that love his appearing" (2.Tim.4:8 KJV). See also Matt.16:21; Rev.11:18; 14:12-13; 22:12.

Why do those who teach that going to heaven is the reward of  the saved rely on mistranslations, obscure scriptures, and  tradition for their support of this teaching? The simple truth is that  the  Bible does not teach that heaven is the reward  of  the saved.  This teaching is another example of the many contradictions  between  what people believe and what the  Bible  actually says.

The  rewards  God  has prepared for the righteous  are  far  more exciting  than  the nebulous idea of going off  to  heaven.  The Bible  teaches that the  rewards of the  righteous  are  immortality, becoming a son of God the Father, a joint inheritance and  rulership  with  Jesus Christ in the God family , and  much  more.  The Bible also teaches a life full of peace, happiness, joy,  excitement, and pleasures forever for those who obtain salvation:

"You  will make me to know the way of life. In your presence  are fullness  of  joy;  at your right hand  are  pleasures  forever" (Psa.16:11 Para.).

The  teaching that humans go directly to heaven after death is  a false  teaching and the scriptures clearly show the error of this belief. As you can see by the clear scriptures that have  been presented here, there is a great contradiction between what people believe and  what  the Bible actually says about this topic. Moreover,  personal  research  and study  into this topic will help bring a deeper understanding  of the tremendous opportunity God is offering humanity.

By B.L Cocherell, file b7w9