The Forgotten Victory?

The biblical writer; Jude, who was commonly known as the half-brother of Jesus, wrote to his readers: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.” (Jude 1:4 ESV) Like Jude, I felt it necessary to write about the resurrection as the forgotten victory because of the many erroneous theological ideas surrounding death that are currently popular among many who are supposedly of faith.

Now, before I present my contentions, let it be known that this is not an attempt to be judgmental or condescending, but rather I write in an effort to promote the biblical concepts that were delivered to the saints of old! Sadly, too much of what is being passed off as ‘biblical’ around many Christian circles and churches today is actually current cultural concepts in biblical façade!

For instance, not long ago, I observed a funeral service in which, before the closing of the casket, a crown was placed upon the head of the deceased! The theme of the minister’s message was that, after battling sickness, disease, and the many struggles of life, the dearly-departed had now gained the victory through death! The preacher said that although the person had battled cancer, they were now victoriously healed because they had a brand new body in Heaven! Now, that’s sounds encouraging and even comforting, but is it biblical? Well. . . .not exactly! Let me show you what I’m talking about!

First of all, contrary to what is commonly preached and believed in most Christian churches, the Bible DOES NOT teach that our permanent dwelling will be in the Heaven where God dwells! Now, the Bible DOES teach that those who die in the Lord are immediately in the presence of the Lord! Jesus said to the repentant thief on the cross: “Today, you shall be with me in paradise!” (Luke 23:43) The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:8, talks about being absent from the body and being present with the Lord. Therefore, biblical evidence suggest, our loved-ones who have died in the Lord are presently with the Lord. However, even though they are with the Lord, they are not complete, they are not whole! Why? Because they are in a dis-embodied spiritual state! Their spirits are with God, but their bodies (the part of them that was sick, suffering, cancer-ridden, etc.,) are in their graves!

Sure! The Apostle Paul said: “For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Cor. 5:1 NASB) But the point that many miss is the fact that, that body is not received immediately after death! No! According to the Scriptures, we will not get our ‘new’ bodies until the Resurrection and the Resurrection will not occur until Jesus comes again! Consider another passage that is often read at funerals, but we miss the full message of it: In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the Apostle Paul writes: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 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. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.” (KJV)

Let’s unpack this so you can see what I’m trying to say. The believers in Thessalonica were anxiously awaiting the Lord’s return. However, there were believers among them who had already died and those who remained were concerned that those who had died would miss the Lord’s coming. Paul wrote this section of the letter to assure them that those who had died would be caught up to meet the Lord just like those who are alive at his coming.

Paul said that when Christ returns, he will bring with him those ‘which sleep in Jesus.’ (v.14) But then he also says in verse 16, that the dead in Christ shall rise first! But wait a minute! I thought those who ‘sleep in Jesus’ and the ‘dead in Christ’ were the same people? So, how can Jesus bring those who sleep in him, with him when he comes, if those same people shall first rise from the grave before those who are alive are changed? If those who sleep in Jesus and those who will rise from the grave are the same people, how can they be in different places (with Jesus in Heaven and in the grave) at the same time?

Well, when Jesus comes, he will bring the disembodied spirits of the saved with him and their mortal remains will be raised immortal from the grave! The Bible calls this; the First Resurrection! It is at that point that victory over death will be achieved! No! The believer does not gain the victory over death at death; the believer will gain victory over death at the Resurrection!

Now, this raises another interesting question: If Heaven, in a disembodied state (the present state of those who have died in Christ) is indeed our ‘home’ or ultimate destination, then what is the purpose of the resurrection? I’ve always heard that the purpose of the resurrection will be so that we might be judged for the things we have done in the body. But think about it; the Bible says the angels will be judged and they don’t have mortal bodies as we have, so having a mortal body is not a necessary perquisite for judgment! So, what is the purpose of the resurrection? The purpose of the resurrection is so that body and spirit might be re-united, so that we might live as we were originally created to live!

And how were we originally created to live? Well, according to the Genesis account, humanity was made from the earth to have stewardship-dominion over the earth and to be sustained by the earth! When Adam fell, he didn’t fall from Heaven; he fell from the state that God had created him! Thus if the salvation plan of God is about restoration (by definition, restoration is a bringing back to a former position or condition), then Heaven cannot be our permanent dwelling because Heaven is not where we were originally created to live!

The only way for people go to Heaven is through death! And the only reason for the existence of death is because of sin! The Bible says; the wages of sin is death! And since sin and death were not part of God’s original intent and they are the only reasons people leave this world and go to another place, then in addition to what the Scriptures declare explicitly, implicit logic requires us to conclude that being in Heaven in a dis-embodied state was not God’s original intend for our eternal or ultimate destiny!

What sense would it make for God to go through all of the trouble of making a physical-world, making man as a spiritual-physical being to live and exercise authority in that physical world only to completely abandon that plan and opt for man to live permanently in a purely spiritual state in Heaven after man messed up? That makes absolutely no sense at all! In fact, such a notion actually implies that God was so short-sighted that man’s sin caught God completely off-guard, proving God as incapable of finishing what God had started, making it necessary for God to implement an alternative plan for man to live eternally in Heaven as a dis-embodied spirit instead on earth as a spirit-physical being as God had originally planned!

But the GOOD NEWS the Bible shares is that God had made provisions for Adam’s sin, even before Adam was created! The GOOD NEWS of the Bible is that God’s original intent will ultimately be realized! With all of our doctrines and traditions, we’ve made complicated, what is actually quite simple! The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, is the story about a kingdom given, a kingdom lost, and a kingdom regained! It’s the story of a good creation that went bad, but is being and will be ultimately restored!

Theologians call Adam’s sin in the garden; The Fall! Man ‘fell’ from the state God had created him! The consequence of that fall was and is death! What is death? Death is, in a sense, an unnatural separation! Physical death is the separation of the spirit-soul from the physical body! I call it ‘unnatural’ because it is not God’s original intent; death perverts and subverts the way God originally intended for man to exist! We often cite in marriage ceremonies what Jesus said: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder!” Well, in a sense, that’s exactly what death does! Death separates (body and spirit) what God originally joined together! Paul said of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 15:25-26: “For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (KJV) The resurrection will be the destruction of death! The resurrection will be God joining back together what death had put asunder!

God is working everything out to fulfill His original intent! His original intent was not for us to be with Him in Heaven, but rather for Him to be with us on Earth! He was originally ‘with us’ when He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of the day! He was ‘with us’ in the person of Jesus; the Immanuel! He is ‘with us’ today in the person of the Holy Spirit! And one day, He will be with us as He originally was! For I read the Apostle John’s Revelation: “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. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (Rev. 21:1-5 KJV) [bold italicize mine]

Yes! The victory that is most often forgotten on funeral occasions is the victory of the resurrection! In speaking of this victory, the Apostle Paul said the same things to the Corinthians that he said to the Thessalonians: “Listen, I am telling you a mystery: We will not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, 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. For this corruptible body must be clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body must be clothed with immortality. When this corruptible body is clothed with incorruptibility, and this mortal body is clothed with immortality, then the saying that is written will take place: Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:51-55 CSB17)

Forever Human

It was a beautiful service, with multitudes of flowers and a massive gathering of family and friends. The casket was elaborate and no expense was spared in giving the dearly departed a grand send-off! I can’t tell you the number of times  I have personally observed such an occasion. But the thing that sticks with me long after such occasions more than the memory of the beautiful flowers or the elaborate casket, is the gross biblical ignorance displayed by Christian laymen and preachers at the funeral! The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep. . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:13 KJV) Yet, in spite of Paul’s writings and other passages in Scripture that provide insight into the state of the dearly departed, most people today are still ignorant of what the Bible says about death and the future eternal state of humanity!

You would think it was true according to what many, supposedly ‘spiritual people,’ say at funerals, but people don’t actually die because God wants or needs them in Heaven to enhance the ‘flowers of Heaven’ or to keep Him company! The Bible says; “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12 ESV) Death occurs because of sin! Not necessarily because of the particular sins of the person who died, but rather because we live in a sinful fallen world! Jesus said: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10 ESV) So often, when someone dies, we attribute the death to God. We say things like: “The Lord took him!” or “It was just God’s will!” or the classic: “We loved them, but God loved them best!” (The absurdity of that statement is that we are actually implying that God loved them so much that God killed them, which is utterly ridiculous!). But, as in the case of the parable of the enemy who sowed the tares among the wheat while men slept, the truth of the matter is that when it comes to death, the real cause is; ‘An enemy has done this!” (Matthew 13:28).

But let me get back to my main purpose for writing this post! I think one of the greatest fallacies perpetrated when someone dies and on funeral occasions is the notion that people somehow turn into angels when they die! This false notion is illustrated by a depiction of the deceased, floating in the clouds with angel-wings on their backs! But there are at least two things wrong with that picture! First of all, where did we get the notion that even real angels have wings? It is certainly NOT from the Bible! The only heavenly or spiritual beings portrayed in the Bible as having wings are the Cherubim and the Seraphim! The fact that these two beings are specifically designated and their specific function indicates they are not the same as angels! Whenever and wherever angels are encountered in the Bible, they are always depicted as looking like normal men! No wings! No halos! And definitely No harps!

Secondly, angels are depicted in the Bible as ‘messengers.’ In fact, both the Hebrew and Greek words that are translated as ‘angel’ in our English Bibles actually mean; ‘messenger.’ So, in a sense, the word ‘angel’ is not actually a designation of identity, but rather a designation of function! Just like, the term that we use for the person who delivers our mail doesn’t really say anything about who they are, it just tells what they do!  It is not their identity, it is their function!  As humans, we are the object of God’s love and the crown jewels of God’s created order. Therefore, for humans to turn into angels would actually be a ‘step-down’ not a step-up! Hush! I hear you! You are saying: “But what about Psalm 8:5, where the Bible says that man was created a little lower than the angels?” Well, the word that is translated as ‘angels’ in that verse is not the same Hebrew word that is translated as; ‘angel’ everywhere else in the Old Testament. In just about every other place in the Old Testament, where we see the word ‘angel’ or ‘angels’ in our English Bibles, the Hebrew word is ‘malek’ which means; messenger or representative. But in Psalm 8:5, the Hebrew word is ‘elohim’ which is actually the term used to refer to Yahweh God (the LORD God) or gods! Thus, what the Psalmist actually said was that man was made, not a little lower than ‘angels’ but rather a little lower than God! Therefore, for humans to become angels at death would be a demotion rather than a promotion! And think about it! If it was God’s intention for humans to become angels, why did God make them human? He could have made them angels in the first place! But God made angels to be angels forever and humans to be humans forever!

 We are forever human! In fact, the Bible states that the dearly-parted will one day come back to earth to reclaim their total humanity! (see1 Corinthians 15:13-29; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) [I use the term; ‘total’ because, according to the Genesis account, man was created as a union of spirit and body. Therefore, absence of a body, makes the dearly departed somewhat incomplete and not their total selves!] That’s what the Resurrection is all about; to reunite the spirit/soul with the body! For if we read the Bible carefully, we will discover that the redeemed will not spent eternity in the Heavenly realm in a spiritually disembodied state as the dearly departed are now, but rather on the earth in glorified bodies! (see Revelation 21:1-5) Notice the wording of the Revelation text, particularly verse 3 where John says: And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Rev. 21:3 ESV) It is repeated three times in just one verse; the emphasis is not on man being with God, but rather John wants us to know the plan is for God to spend eternity with us! Why? Because that’s the way God made us! God did not create man to dwell in Heaven, God created man to dwell on the earth. When Adam communed with God, Adam didn’t go to Heaven to see God, but rather God came down to earth; to the garden to commune with Adam; the being God made to be forever human!

All ‘Power’ In His Hands!

“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” (Matt. 28:18 KJV)

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” (Matt. 28:18 NKJ)

I recently posted a synopsis of this teaching about the ‘power’ God gave Jesus at His resurrection on my FaceBook page. But, because of its theological significance, I want to expand and explain it here.

You see, the bottom line is that historically and traditionally, we have and we do preach this text incorrectly! I’ve done it numerous times myself in the past! Now, it makes for a good ‘whoop!’ (Those of us who are African-Americans and grew up in church know what the ‘whoop’ is! For those who don’t know, it is the climatic celebration at the end of a preacher’s sermon. It is the part where the preacher begins to chant, moan, and sing the message. Now there are some pseudo-intellectuals in the Black community who say the ‘whoop’ is unnecessary and a sign of ignorance, but as of late, there are many preachers of European descent who are beginning to recognize and incorporate its communicative genius into their sermonic delivery! But, I digress! So, let me get back to my point) Yes! The traditional way we’ve preach it makes for good whooping material! I can hear it now: “Yes! When He got up early that Sunday morning; He rose with all power in His hands! Can I get a witness here? Power to raise up a bowed-down head! Power to make me walk right! Power to make me talk right! Power to hit a straight lick with a crooked stick! Oh! Y’all don’t hear me! I said; When He got up; He had all power in His hands!” Yes, that’s the way we preach it, but we’ve been preaching it wrong!

We’ve been preaching it as if the Greek word for ‘power’ in the text is dunamis but it is not! The Greek word in the text is exousia! Now, although both of these Greek words can rightfully be translated into English as ‘power,’ they have two different meanings! Dunamis has the meaning of ‘might, ability, and strength.’ Exousia has the meaning of ‘authority, privilege, rule, choice, government, and right.’ Jesus already had all dunamis-power! That’s the power He used to raise Lazarus from the dead! That’s the power He used to open the eyes of the blind, to turn water into wine, and to perform all of the miracles! We might ought to notice that the miracles are called; dumamis (mighty works) in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but they are called; semeion (signs) in the Gospel of John. No! God didn’t give Jesus all dunamis-power at His resurrection! Jesus already had all dumamis-power! At His resurrection, God gave all exousia-power to Jesus! That’s the power to rule! That’s the power, the right, and the authority to be in charge! That’s the power to govern! That’s authority! That’s the power of right, as in the power of attorney; the power to transact business in someone else’s name! That’s the all-power that God gave Jesus at His resurrection! When God raised Jesus from the dead, God made Jesus the CEO of the Kingdom of God!

Notice also that, according to the Bible, Jesus didn’t rise up from the grave on His own power! No! In the act of the resurrection; Jesus wasn’t the actor, Jesus was acted upon or rather, Jesus was the recipient of the action: It was God who raised Jesus from the dead!

Now, at this point you might be asking: What difference does it make? Well, it’s a matter of biblical accuracy and correct theology because there is a difference between power and authority! Power is the strength, might, or ability to do something, whereas authority is the right to do it! It’s quite possible to have the strength to do something, but that doesn’t mean you have the authority to do it! You can also have the authority or the right to do something, but yet not have the ability or the power to do it! It’s possible to have power without authority and to have authority without power! But Jesus already had the power and when God raised Jesus from the dead, God gave Him the authority!

That means, Jesus has the right! He has the authority to make demands upon our lives! After He died and God raised Him from the dead; God put Him in charge! In Philippians 2:8-11, the Apostle Paul says: “And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (KJV) The Great Commission that Jesus gave to His disciples was based on the ‘all authority’ he had been given!

Now there are those who are refusing to bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord today! But, in thinking about them, I’m reminded of an old television commercial for a transmission repair shop, I think it was Aamco. A lady brought her car into the shop to be checked because it was making some weird noises. The mechanic checked her car and told her she needed some work done on her transmission. When the lady heard how much it was going to cost, she decided she wouldn’t presently pay it. It was at that point that the mechanic told her: “Ma’am, you can pay me now, or you can pay me later!” Now, he wasn’t offering her a service-now-pay-later plan. No! What he was telling her was that she could either pay a low price now and get the transmission fixed, or she could wait until the problem got worse and have to pay an even greater price later on! Well, you can either voluntarily bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord now, or you can refuse and be forced to bow and acknowledge Him as Lord later! You can bow now or you can bow later, but eventually every knee (even the demons in Hell) will bow and acknowledge Jesus as Lord because God has placed all authority in His hands!

He Lives! But How?

Empty TombWe have just finished celebrating the Resurrection! The message is: Jesus has been raised from the dead! He is risen! But the question that lingers in the back of my mind is: How is he risen? Now, I don’t mean to question the particular mechanics of the event, such as the exact manner of how God did it, but rather the question seeks to address his present place in our thinking in light of the resurrection.

Many confess the resurrection, but the question on the table for this discussion is: What does that resurrection look like? Allow me to explain! There are many people who will acknowledge the resurrection, but they think of Jesus as merely a historical figure who was raised from the dead who has no bearing on their present everyday lives. To them, the resurrection is merely a historical fact with no contemporary relevance. Jesus was raised from the dead and he lives, but he only lives in history!

And then, there are those who will acknowledge the resurrection, but the Jesus who lives, lives only within the pages of their Bibles! To them, Jesus is alive, but he lives only as a literary figure; much the same way as Mark Twain and Sherlock Holmes. The question of the actual historicity of Jesus is not central in their thinking. Jesus lives in their minds as merely a literary character in a book!

And then, there are those for whom Jesus lives only as a mythological figure, on the same plan as Zeus, Thor, and Santa Claus! They have doubts about an actual historical Jesus and are satisfied with the idea of the resurrection being a mere religious myth. In the same vein, there are those who acknowledge a historical Jesus, but view the resurrection only as a religious myth. Many of these same people will acknowledge Jesus as a great moral teacher on the same plane as Confucius, Aristotle and Plato.

There is also, what I would call, the nominal Christians. These people celebrate the resurrection, but in reality Jesus is alive only in their hearts! He is an internal source of comfort and inspiration for them, but that is the extent of his present life as far as they are concerned.

But what is the truth of the resurrection? Well, according to the Bible, Jesus is alive and well and even now sits at the right hand of power! He is not a mere influence or memory, but rather he is the Living Lord who is directing and guiding the people of his Kingdom! He was raised early that 3rd-day morning and is alive forever more! And one day, that same Jesus that was raised from the tomb, will come back to this earth again in the consummation of history as we know it!

It short, his “aliveness” is not restricted to the pages of history, mythology, memory, or even the hearts of those who believe in him. His life is independent of all those factors for he has life within himself! Yes! He lives! Independent of our thoughts or opinions! He lives as Lord! Paul put it so eloquently when he wrote: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phi 2:6-11 KJV)

Is Heaven Home?


Back in my early days of seminary, during the first weeks of class, our professor introduced our class to a concept he called “deconstruction.” The idea was to “de-construct” (not destroy) everything we had learn or been taught theologically in order to analyze and verify it. He said this was necessary because most of the beliefs we had adopted, we had accepted them without giving them any serious critical thought. In other words, we had accepted what we have been told as truth without doing any research or investigation to verify the validity of it. The goal of deconstruction was not just to tear down our “pop-theology” (the professor’s term for theology we had formed from what we were told and not from serious biblical study) but to analyze, investigate, and verify it. Within that process, ideas thought to be true but after serious study, found not to be, were discarded and ideas that were found to be true were strengthened and expanded, along with the adoption of new concepts and truths acquired through serious biblical and theological study.

Now, some might reason: Why is this process necessary? Isn’t this just re-inventing the wheel? No! It’s not “re-inventing” the wheel; ‘it’s making a better wheel! It’s taking apart the crude wagon wheel and reconstructing it with state of the art technology to produce a wheel with a more balanced and smoother ride! And beside this, most people are not like the Bereans in the days of the Apostle Paul. As Paul preached to the Bereans, the Bible says of them in Acts 17:11: “These people were more conscientious than those in Thessalonica. They received the message with unrestrained eagerness, daily and critically examining the biblical texts to determine the authenticity of what they heard.” (Acts 17:11 MIT <MacDonald Idiomatic Translation>) Do you see that? They didn’t just take Paul’s word for it! They carefully examined the biblical text to verify what Paul said! Now, as my Daddy used to say: “I said all of that to say this: I want to ask a question that challenges our traditional thinking: “Is Heaven home?”

In the circles I commonly travel, people don’t have “funerals” anymore!  Oh yes! They still have a service when someone dies, but it is not called a funeral; it is called a “home-going” service. The idea is that the person (presumably a Christian) has labored in the vineyard of life and now that God has called them “home,” instead of mourning their death, the fact that they have been called from labor to reward and that they are now at home (in Heaven): resting in the arms of the Lord is celebrated! But, I’ve been giving this some serious thought and study for a few years now! And my question is not whether or not they have gone to Heaven, my question is: Are they at “home?” Or “Is Heaven home?” What is “home?” By definition, home is the place of origin. Home is the place of residence, the final destination. With these definitions in mind, I want to go out on a theological limb and suggest that Heaven is NOT home! Now, before you brand me as a heretic and call a council to revoke my ministerial license, let me give you some reasons why I think Heaven is NOT home:

First of all, by definition, home is the place of origin. Home is where you come from. So the question that begs to be asked is: Did we come from Heaven? According to the biblical text, we didn’t! Genesis 2:7 says: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” (KJV) The text suggests that man in his origin was a combination of the earthly (the dust of the ground) and the divine (the God-given breath or spirit <the particular Hebrew word in this text that is translated as “breath” is neshamah, which can be translated as “breath” and/or “spirit.”>). Man is a combination of Heaven and Earth, but man didn’t come from Heaven! Man’s origin is the earth! In fact, the whole Creation story seems to suggest that earth was created for man’s habitation and dominion! By the way, when Adam and Eve fell in the Fall, they didn’t fall “from Heaven!” They didn’t lose Heaven; they lost dominion!

We can also define home as the place of residence or the final destination. Using that definition, let’s see if Heaven is indeed home. Is Heaven our ultimate place of residence or our final destination? Again, I would like to suggest that although we commonly think so, the Bible really says otherwise! Genesis 1:26-28 says: “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (KJV) Clearly, man (male and female) was made to have dominion over the earth. Also remember, at this point in the text, sin had not yet entered into the world, so this would constitute God’s original intent. God’s original intent was for man to have dominion over the earth! Psalm 115:16 says: “The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” (KJV) Heaven is God’s home; not ours! And speaking of God’s original intent; it was not God’s original intent for man to die! Death came as a consequence of sin! The only way we can get to Heaven now is by dying!  And according to the Bible, death is not extinction; death is separation. Physical death is the separation of the soul/spirit from the body. So when the believer dies, the body is left on earth and only the soul/spirit goes to God. Now, stay with me here! God created us originally to live on earth in a body. We were created as a union of spirit and body. Therefore, when we die and our soul/spirit goes to Heaven, not only are we not at home, but in a sense we are also incomplete! The Bible says that Heaven is a place, but it is a spiritual place. In other words, as Paul says in I Corinthians 15:50: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God.” Our bodies cannot and do not go to Heaven, only our spirit/soul. When we go to Heaven, part of us is left behind!

Now, God doesn’t just discard the body and forget about it. You see, if Heaven was home, there would be no need for the resurrection! But there will be a resurrection (a reunion of the spirit/soul with the body)! Even the Old Testament Patriarch Job said: “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.” (Job 19:25-26 KJV) Now, let me ask you this: If Heaven is a spiritual state and Heaven is our final destination, why go through the trouble of having a resurrection? Now some would answer at this point: “So that we might be judged in our bodies for what we did in our bodies.” But couldn’t God just as well judge us in spirit without our bodies? I would like to suggest that the purpose of the resurrection is not primarily for judgment! God has something even greater in mind! Let’s look at a few “resurrection” texts for some further insights. Now, we usually look at I Thessalonians 4:13-18 as a proof text for the “rapture” but it also sheds some interesting light on the resurrection. Verse 14 says: “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.” (KJV) Paul says that when Jesus comes, he will bring with him the spirits of those believers who had already died. Question: If Heaven is home, why bring the spirits with him when he comes back to earth? Why couldn’t he just say to them: “Wait here (in Heaven) while I go down and get the rest!” But he will bring their spirits with him! Why? Verse 16 gives us the answer: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.” (KJV) Wait a minute! Aren’t “those who sleep in Jesus” (the ones he will bring back with him) and “the dead in Christ” the same people? What’s going on here? It’s the resurrection! Jesus will bring back with him the spirits/souls from Heaven and their bodies will be raised from the graves so that body and soul might be reunited! Paul concludes by saying in verse 17, “and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” (KJV) But wait a minute! Why would we need our bodies (even if they are glorified) if we are going to spent eternity in Heaven where we won’t need them? Because we are not going to spend eternity in a disembodied state in Heaven, but we will need bodies for where we will spend eternity!

Let me now conclude by lifting up the words of the Apostle John in Revelation 21:1-5 for us to ponder in regard to our question. John said: “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. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 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. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” (KJV) The first thing I want us to notice is that John said he saw the holy city, new Jerusalem “coming down from God out of heaven.” Where is it coming down to, John? Coming down to the “new earth” mentioned in verse 1! (By the way, a reference to a city can be a reference to not just the structures, but also to the inhabitants, here I think is a reference to the people of the city) Secondly, note in verse 3 that John said he heard a great voice out of heaven saying: “Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.” Do you see that? Three times in one verse: God is “with men,” he will dwell “with them,” God himself shall be “with them!” We’ve always preached and taught that the ultimate goal is for us to go and be with God, but according to this text, the ultimate end is God coming to be with us!

Now this is just a short summary of summary of why I believe Heaven is NOT home. I have much more that I could share with you, but in the words of Jesus: “You cannot bear them now!” But, it is for these reasons that where I serve as pastor, we don’t have a “home-going” service when a member dies; we have a “celebrations of life” service! I have even given my wife instructions that if I should die before she does, to make sure they don’t put my body in a casket that has the words: “Going Home” on the headboard. If anything, I want a custom headboard with the words: “Gone Away,” or “On Vacation” or even the words: “I’ll Be Back!” For as the Apostle Paul said: “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring (back) with him those who have fallen asleep.” (1Th 4:14 ESV)

Your comments and critiques are welcomed! Tell me what you think! Is Heaven Home?