In the previous post “What is a Christians Hope? Heaven or Earth” I made the case that the only hope for Christians was the heavenly one. The post also explained why it is reasonable to place the great crowd in heaven. This post will continue the topic of our hope.
As Christians we all have “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4). Col. 1:5 lets us know that hope is in heaven – “5 because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. You have already heard about [this hope] in the message of truth, the gospel.”
This is the hope of the gospel. I believe there is no other. We will find that the Christian writers of the Greek Scriptures offer no other hope for Christians. Let us see in the bible the many times this “one hope” is mentioned.
1 Cor. 15:49-53 (Holman Christian Standard Bible) “49 And just as we have borne the image of the man made of dust, we will also bear the image of the heavenly man. 50 Brothers, I tell you this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, and corruption cannot inherit incorruption. 51 Listen! I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. 53 Because this corruptible must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal must be clothed with immortality.”
Those who go to heaven “inherit the kingdom of God”. The sheep of Jesus’ parable of the sheep and the goats are said to “inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Yes, the sheep are faithful Christians all of whom will inherit the kingdom by being resurrected to a heavenly life. Paul also warns for example in Gal. 5:19-21 that those who habitually practice certain works of the flesh “will not inherit the kingdom of God”. In other words they will not be resurrected to a heavenly life. Notice what Jesus says in his parable of the wheat and the weeds what reward will be given to the wheat-like Christians in Matt. 13:43 (HCSB) – ” 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. Anyone who has ears should listen!”
1 John 3:2 (HCSB) – ” 2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He is.” All of God’s children will be made to have a body like our Savior, Jesus. Phil. 3:20,21 also agrees with this ” 20 but our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.”
2 Cor. 5:1,2 (HCSB) – ” 1 For we know that if our earthly house, a tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 And, in fact, we groan in this one, longing to put on our house from heaven,”
2 Tim. 4:8 (HCSB) – ” 8 In the future, there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not only to me, but to all those who have loved His appearing.” Paul here mentions a “crown of righteousness” that he along with all Christians waiting eagerly for the Master’s arrival will receive when Jesus returns. The most logical understanding of this “crown” would be the crown that faithful Christians receive upon being resurrected in heaven to be kings and priests. Notice how other texts mention a crown given to faithful Christians. 1 Cor 9:25 – ” 25 Now everyone who competes exercises self-control in everything. However, they do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.”
1 Peter 5:4 (HCSB) – ” 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”
James 1:12 (HCSB) – ” 12 Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him.”
Revelation 2:10, 11 (NWT) – ” 10 Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. Look! The Devil will keep on throwing some of YOU into prison that YOU may be fully put to the test, and that YOU may have tribulation ten days. Prove yourself faithful even to death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11 Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations. He that conquers will by no means be harmed by the second death.’”
Revelation 3:11,12 (NWT)- ” 11 I am coming quickly. Keep on holding fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 “‘The one that conquers—I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will by no means go out [from it] anymore, and I will write upon him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem which descends out of heaven from my God, and that new name of mine.”
Revelation 3:21 (NWT) – ” 21 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: 4,5 (NWT) – ” 4 “‘Nevertheless, you do have a few names in Sar´dis that did not defile their outer garments, and they shall walk with me in white ones, because they are worthy. 5He that conquers will thus be arrayed in white outer garments (kind of like the garments that the great crowd will have, see Rev 7:13); and I will by no means blot out his name from the book of life, but I will make acknowledgment of his name before my Father and before his angels.”
Who are these ones that “conquer” and receive a crown and sit down with Jesus on his throne? Let us allow 1 John 5:3-5 (NWT) to answer ” 3 For this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome, 4 because everything that has been born from God conquers the world. And this is the conquest that has conquered the world, our faith. 5 Who is the one that conquers the world but he who has faith that Jesus is the Son of God?”
All Christians who “conquer” the world by their faith will sit with Jesus on His throne. The bible does not seem to indicate that some who conquer will receive a throne and others who conquer will be given life on earth. Remember we all only have the “one hope”. Let’s consider just a few more texts.
Hebrews 3:1 (NWT)- “Consequently, holy brothers, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest whom we confess—Jesus.”
2 Peter 1:10,11 (NWT) – “10 For this reason, brothers, all the more do YOUR utmost to make the calling and choosing of YOU sure for yourselves; for if YOU keep on doing these things YOU will by no means ever fail. 11 In fact, thus there will be richly supplied to YOU the entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Luke 20:34-36 (NWT) “34 Jesus said to them: “The children of this system of things marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who have been counted worthy of gaining that system of things and the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage.36 In fact, neither can they die anymore, for they are like the angels, and they are God’s children by being children of the resurrection.” God’s sons and daughters will be resurrected as immortal spirit creatures.
1 Cor. 6:2 – (HCSB) “2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world?…” The saints apart from being kings and priests will also judge the world.
The first century Christians certainly had no other hope to strive for other than the heavenly hope. When John wrote his letters which only mention the heavenly hope it was near the close of the first century. By that time it has been conservatively estimated that there were already more than 144000 Christians, many of whom gave up their life for their faith. Receiving a heavenly resurrection is not only for the “best of the best” Christians. It is for all Christians who have God’s favor. The organization creates the feeling in the mind of the publishers that only the most worthy and the most spiritual have this hope. A person could read the publications for a thousand years and never have the heavenly hope well up within them. However if you read the Greek Scriptures over and over and pray for God’s spirit, it is my belief that you will begin to have that hope born within you. Some fight with feelings of low self-esteem thinking that they could never be worthy of being with Jesus in heaven. The first century Christians were the same as us. Read over the letters to the Corithians and you will notice that those brothers were very far from being perfect.
Jesus’ parable of the workers in the vineyard lets us know all the Master’s workers will receive the same wage. (Matt. 20:1-16) Some may have labored longer or born the brunt of the heat of persecution yet all are faithful and receive the same wage. If this post is correct that wage will be a heavenly resurrection.