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Bible Correspondence Course - Lesson 7
Bible Correspondence Course - Lesson 7
Will You Go to Heaven?

Most professing Christians believe they will go to heaven when they die. They assume that the righteous men of the Bible went to heaven when they died. But what does the Bible say? Is heaven really the “reward of the saved”?

WHY, if the righteous go to heaven, did Jesus say: “No MAN hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man [Jesus Christ] which is in heaven”? (John 3:13.)

If the saved go to heaven when they die, why did Peter say that King David, a man after God's own heart (Acts 13:22), “is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day… For David is NOT ascended into the heavens”? (Acts 2:29, 34.)

Yes, WHY?

What a paradox! Millions today believe the saved go to heaven, yet righteous David didn't go there!

And if the saved go to heaven when they die, what need is there for a resurrection from the dead? Why a resurrection if they have already “gone to their reward”?

Isn't it about time these puzzling, yet vitally important, questions were answered?

What People Believe

Belief in going to heaven after death is not limited to professing Christians. People around the world have always believed in some kind of afterlife – some type of “reward” after death. It is a “recognized article of the creed of heathens, Jews and Mohammedans... Eternal blessedness was, in the view of the ancient pagans, reserved for those only who were distinguished for their exalted virtues, and who were accordingly admitted into the society of the gods…" (Gardner, The Faiths of the World, vol. 2, p. 10).

States this same authority: “The heaven of the Hindu is absorption in Brahm, and of the Buddhist, annihilation or Nirwana. The priesthood of the ancient Egyptians taught the immortality of the soul under the name of Palingenesia, or a second birth, being a return of the soul to the celestial spheres, or its reabsorption into the Supreme Being….” (p. 11).

The eleventh edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica declares there is “a bewildering variety in the views of the future life and world held by different peoples...The scene of the future life may be thought of on earth, in some distant part of it, or above the earth, in the sky, sun, moon or stars, or beneath the earth. The abodes of bliss and the places of torment may be distinguished, or one last dwelling-place may be affirmed for all the dead. Sometimes the good find their abiding home with the gods; sometimes a number of heavens of varying degrees of blessedness is recognized” (vol. 9, p. 760, article “Eschatology”).

Moslems believe in a heaven prepared for the followers of Mohammed, the professors of the “true religion.” They believe that there they shall enjoy perpetual light and all heavenly pleasures. Their belief includes eight heavens representing differing degrees of happiness.

Mohammed taught about a “heaven” of carnal, sensual pleasures. But at the same time, he taught in the Koran that the height of happiness is seeing God face to face, and that this pleasure causes all other pleasures to be forgotten.

Many Australian tribes have had a belief in a happy “other-world.” In particular, those scattered over the south-eastern region believed in a future happy life “beyond the great water” or in the sky. This “paradise” was often called “gumtree country.” The path to “sky-land” was believed to be by the rays of the setting sun or by the Milky Way.

Tasmanian aborigines looked forward to a happier life after death, in which they would pursue the chase and forever enjoy the pleasures which they coveted on earth.

Ancient Teutonic peoples believed in a heavenly abode called Valhalla. To this heaven of the gods – a warrior's paradise – “all brave warriors hoped to go… It is raftered with spears, it is decked with shields, its benches are strewn with coats of mail. A wolf hangs before the western door, an eagle hovers over it... So great was Valhalla that it possessed five hundred and forty doors. Every day the warriors, fully armed, issued from the gates to amuse themselves in combat with each other, returning to feast and drink heavenly mead from the cups presented to them by the Valkyries” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, vol. II, p. 709).

Some Eskimos of Greenland still believe in two regions of afterlife: The first in the cold sky or “over-world,” with hills and valleys and a heaven; the other, an underground domain, a blissful place with sunshine and perpetual summer.

Clearly, the idea of going to heaven when one dies is not the sole property of professing Christians. Pagans since time immemorial have had similar notions!

The Egyptian “Heaven”

History records that many of the ideas of professing Christianity concerning heaven have come from the ancient Egyptians.

Writes Adolph Erman in The Ancient Egyptians (translated by Aylaward M. Blackman): “The Pyramid Texts are mainly concerned with the desire of the august dead to avoid leading a gloomy existence in the underworld – the fate of ordinary dead mortals – and to dwell in the sky like the gods. There he might voyage with the sun-god in his ship, or dwell in the Fields of the Blessed, the Field of Food-Offerings, or the Field of Iaru. He might himself become a god, and the fancy of the poets strives to depict the king in this new role. No longer is he a man whom the gods graciously receive into heaven, but a conqueror who seizes heaven from them” (p. 2).

The Egyptians believed that before the souls of the dead could reach the Egyptian “heaven” – the Field of Iaru – and appear in the presence of Osiris, they must traverse a vast underworld region called the Tuat, which was inhabited by gods, devils, fiends, demons, good and bad spirits and the souls of the wicked, besides snakes, monsters and serpents. The Egyptian sacred book, The Book of the Dead, prescribed spells, incantations, prayers, charms and amulets to help the dead man overcome the dangers of the Tuat and to reach Sekhet Aaru and Sekhet Hetep – other names for the Egyptian heavento take his place among the subjects of Osiris in the “Land of Everlasting Life” (E. A. Wallis Budge, The Literature of the Ancient Egyptians, pp. 40-41).

The arriving dead, the Egyptians thought, were ushered into a Hall of Judgment presided over by Osiris. “When the verdict is favorable and he has been cleared of any impurity, his heart is restored, and after several other ordeals, he is ushered into the bright Elysian Fields (the Fields of Alu) beyond the water... Henceforth, he enjoys the perennial life of the blessed under the shadow of the tree of life, or the sycamore of Nut, the goddess of the sky, a true Osiris” (Kohler, Heaven and Hell in Comparative Religion, p. 22).

When the verdict was unfavorable, the poor sinner experienced the “second death.” The fiercest tortures awaited him, including burning by hot coals, plunging into deep waters, or cutting the body into pieces by sharp swords.

Says Kohler, "We have here the very origin of [Dante's poems] the Inferno and Paradiso” (p. 23, emphasis ours).

What the Early Church Taught

But astounding as it may seem, neither Jesus nor His apostles taught that the righteous go to heaven! Notice what this secular encyclopedia has to say:

“The dominant view in the early church seems to have been that until the return of the Lord upon the clouds of heaven to raise the dead, those who had died were asleep, and that they would be suddenly awakened to be given their new bodies, after which they would reign with Him on earth for a thousand years…" (The New International Encyclopedia, first edition, article “Heaven”).

The early Church clearly did not teach the concept of “going to heaven.” Such teachings did not become popular until long after the death of the apostles!

History shows that the teachings of Catholic Church fathers Clement of Alexandria, Origen and others gradually turned most professing Christians from the belief in a literal 1,000-year reign of Christ on earth.

Notice what happened:

“But, largely under the influence of Greek thought, other conceptions prevailed. The fate of the patriarchs, prophets, and pious men of the old dispensation naturally occupied much attention and led to the idea that they [their “immortal souls”] were detained in a preparatory abode which the fathers called limbus patrum, awaiting the advent of the Redeemer. The general belief of Christians has been that since the resurrection of Christ the just who are free from sin are admitted immediately after death into heaven, where their chief joy consists in the unclouded vision of God” (ibid.).

Hellenistic philosophy, which had borrowed heavily from ancient Egyptian mythology, began to be taught instead of the teachings of the Bible as the source of doctrine! Prevailing concepts such as the immortality of the soul, an ever-burning hell, purgatory and heaven all came directly out of ancient mythology! The popular church, to become more acceptable to potential pagan converts, adopted and taught these pagan philosophies rather than the plain teachings of the Bible!

Today, the idea of heaven being the “reward of the saved” is nearly universal among Christian-professing churches. The vast majority of traditional Christians believe they will go to a “heaven” where the righteous sit on clouds, pluck harps, shuffle through harp music, and look up into the face of the Master for all eternity!

The hit song of the 50s about that “lucky ole sun” that has “nuthin to do but roll around heaven all day,” aptly depicts the nebulous belief of millions of what “heaven” is like.

If the saved indeed go to an eternal retirement home in the sky, then thousands of senior citizens already know its boredom and unhappiness. Few realize that eternal life with little or nothing to do would be an eternity of UTTER BOREDOM – a terrible kind of punishment!

What is the plain truth about heaven? What does your Bible teach about “going to heaven”?