A Biblical Response to Alarming Preterist Claims:

  

"You Will Never Go to Heaven" 

by Mark E. Mountjoy

"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable"—the Apostle Paul

Introduction

Now that the eschaton has been established in the minds of a growing number of Christians as being an event definitely fulfilled in the past, what now?  Where do we go from here?  What do we do now and what is in store for us after we die? These and other questions are swirling around in the minds of many and it is not wrong to entertain them. For far too long the Christian church (as a whole) was able to keep this subject and these questions at bay. Eschatology (in the traditional Patristic churches and their creeds) was put on the back burner. It was a peripheral issue, an ancillary subject almost, one might say, a non-essential (and in some quarters, extinct and even taboo, for all intents and purposes). But now, with the widespread interest in Bible prophecy that exploded in the 1970's and the spectacular failure of those same prophecies in the ensuing years, it has come to the direct attention of many that what was long thought to be in the future, is in reality in the past.

 And with this new realization all kinds of conclusions (some good and some not so good) are circulating and making the rounds. And one of them--the idea that "You will never go to heaven"--is what I want to address in this short essay.

Is It True That We Won't Go to
Heaven Since Christ Came Back Already?

The shock value of the announcement, "You will never go to heaven" can't be lost on anyone. It will get your attention for sure! But why? Because everyone who believes in God wants to go to heaven, but more than that, most people (especially Christians) expect to go to heaven. To tell people "You will never go to heaven" rudely yanks their most earnest, valued and cherished hopes away. Recoiling with horror, normal people think they have heard way too much information already! Why would anyone want to do that to another is beyond me! There are, however reasons behind the claim, but whether these reasons are good or bad, only our investigation into the matter will say. We don't need to spend a lot of time on this, so I want to make this as short and concise as possible.

I will start by saying that I do not agree with the statement, "You will never go to heaven." The reason for the statement is that the Bible says, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth" (Matthew 5:5). The Bible also says that, "He has made us kings and priests and we shall reign on the earth" (Revelation 5:10). Inherit the earth and reign on the earth, what could be clearer than that? Moreover, in Revelation 21:10 the Apostle John saw the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. He saw it from a great and high mountain. If the New Jerusalem came down from heaven and is not even in heaven, how can anyone 'go to heaven'? So the reasoning goes. And from these reasonings some Preterists hold that this New Jerusalem is nothing more and nothing less than what we see and have now as Christians in this world (i.e., they do not believe John is describing a real place, a majestic breathtaking edifice which we will occupy when we leave this earthly sphere of existence; it is just symbolism).

And so, this is it! This is all there is! There is nothing to look forward to! As far as they are concerned, the apocalypse ended with the Destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, the types and the shadows, and all we have now is the history of it and pretty much nothing more, by way of expectation.

A Heavenly Country and a City
Whose Builder and Maker is God

I think that the statement, "You will never go to heaven" is short-sighted and wrong. In place of that dismal outlook (which is but another reason why so many Preterists end up either rejecting the view or just plain falling away from the Lord) we have a Biblical cosmology that informs us of aspirations of the Patriarch Abraham that tell us of his expectation for a country and a city (both heavenly); these give us a basis for hoping to be in the presence of God and the saints of all ages after we have departed from this physical world with all of its sorrows, tribulations and woes. This is the hope I wish to establish for you while asking you to examine and reject the claim that what we hold in our hands or see with our eyes or hear with our ears is all we have and can expect nothing more and nothing glorious.

In the light of a statement of Jesus to the Roman Centurion in Matthew 8, and two statements by Paul in 2 Corinthians 4 and 5 and two statements by the Hebrew writer in Hebrews 11:10 and 16 and statements by Jesus and John in Revelation 2 and in Revelation 21 and 21, and two statements by Paul in our conclusion, I wish to base my case that the New Testament does not only tell us about our hope in this life, but also gives us a tantalizing idea of the glories and riches and splendors he has for Christians beyond the veil (which is, ultimately, what Christianity is all about, Hebrews 6:19).

So, let's examine some things . . .

(1) At the resurrection the Roman centurion, the Roman Christians and others would sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 8:11), but when the kingdom of God came the officer, the Romans, others and those Patriarchs were not seated anywhere in the earthly Ancient Near East.

(2) The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:18 and 5:1 attests that "we have a building of God, a house not made with hands eternal in the heavens." (This hope will never fade).

(3) Abraham looked for a city; he did not look for an abstract idea (Hebrews 11:10).

(4) Abraham desired a heavenly country, but since Abraham has been raised from the dead it seems highly absurd to believe he has been walking around for twenty centuries in the Middle East (Matthew 8:11 cf. Hebrews 11:16).

(5) Jesus promised Christians in Asia Minor rewards "in the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7). This paradise cannot be found anywhere in the Land of Israel, or in present day Turkey or on this physical earth. From what we read in the Book of Hebrews this reality has to be something a person can pass through the veil to see, possess, and experience (Hebrews 6:19).

(6) In Revelation 21:2 the Apostle John saw the holy city, the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven. But in verse 7 of that same chapter it is clear that this place is a reward for the righteous—we have to be faithful to receive it (Revelation 22:14); otherwise, the alternative is the second death (verse 8 cf. Revelation 22:15).

To the above (and especially the last), it might be argued that John saw the New Jerusalem come down from God out of heaven--so it cannot be "in heaven." But it can be in heaven if John meant he saw it come down from the third heaven. It would still be a heavenly city if only by virtue of the fact that, beyond this life, everything is in the heavenlies--a spiritual realm. A spiritual realm, a parallel universe, I believe, is what the New Testament is describing in many places (Luke 2:13-14; Acts 7:55-56; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4; Hebrews 12:22-23 and 1 Peter 1:4). And in that universe (for our purposes) two things exist: (1) The New Jerusalem. This city, this country is the reward that the righteous and the innocent can expect to inherit. And (2) The Second Death. This is a place of punishment where the unrighteous and the wicked can expect to be assigned. And just as the literal Jerusalem had its holy Temple and the valley of Gahenna was adjacent to it, so too, the eternal arrangement in the heavenly spiritual realm reflects the same distinctions (Revelation 14:9-11 cf. 21:8 and 22:15).

Jewish chronicler, Solomon Grayzel writes about the victory of the Church and how Christians used the vision of a glorious life after death to attract poor Romans to the faith of the Son of God. Under the subtle, The Victory of the Church, he writes,

"Not only did the Christians fail to help the Jews in their struggles to maintain themselves in Palestine, they even denied the right of the Jewish people to continue to exist. They claimed the Jewish holy books for themselves, with the addition, of course, of the books which describe the life of Jesus and the first Christians. They asserted that the Jews did not understand their own Bible. Furthermore the Christians said that God had abandoned the Jews, and that they, the Christians, were the true Israel, the people whom God had chosen.

The Jews naturally resented all such claims and tried to keep Christianity from growing. They did not yet give up the hope that the pagans would choose Judaism instead of Christianity. But the Christians were much more active in proselytizing, and they kept on gaining adherents. The persecutions they occasionally had to suffer from the Roman government did not stop them. In fact, the social and economic conditions prevailing in the Roman empire helped the spread of Christianity. Roman society was divided into a small number of wealthy aristocrats and a great majority of poor people who could look forward to nothing during their life on earth. A shining vision of life beyond the grave held out to them comfort, hope and satisfaction. Christianity emphasized such a life after death. . . " (Solomon Grayzel, A History of the Jews, pp. 199-200, emphasis mine, MEM).

This historic hope of Christians has been to live a holy life pleasing to God in hopes of seeing and entering in through the gates of the New Jerusalem--not living a heroic life and dying as a martyr only to cease to exist!

Our conviction is this: as a generic term the expression "heaven" in Christian parlance means the New Jerusalem and nothing else. This is what Christians have always believed and what has always been taught the masses. It is a glorious expectation of a life after death and a teaching that was right and never wrong. When teaching people about Atavist Bible eschatology we want them to understand clearly that the hope of being in a city foursquare is a legitimate aspiration that they should clutch to tightly; they should not give it up for any reason whatsoever. On the other hand, the Second Death, is a place everyone should loath and avoid at all costs. Salvation from damnation can come only come through the saving belief in Jesus as the Son of God, confession of one's belief that, indeed, God has raised him from the dead and an eager willingness to be baptized into Christ to be a part of the people of God and live according to the ethos laid down by the holy Apostles and scribes of our Lord Jesus; there is no other way.*

Conclusion

The statement, "You will never go to heaven" is both wrong, erroneous and misleading. It is grievous mistake because we are not destined to stay in this physical realm indefinitely and what we see and hear and touch is not all there is--there's more, much more! Indeed,

". . .it is written: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit. For the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:9-10)

and, as the Apostle Paul averted,

"If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable"(1 Corinthians 15:19).

God has promised us, both directly and indirectly, that we will be in a country and in a city that Abraham looked for. It is surely beyond the grave, but certainly not in the Middle East!  The New Testament calls it 'the heavenly Jerusalem' a building of God "eternal in the heavens", according to the words of the Apostle Paul.

And so, let us not be thrown into doubt or dismay by the unintentionally harmful claims held by some Preterists. You do not have to be a Futurist and deny the New Testament testimony of Jesus' Second Coming in the generation of his contemporaries. You can affirm what the New Testament says and still believe (with conviction) that you will live with the Lord Jesus and the saints after you die. So, keep your feet firmly planted upon the truth, study and ask questions to protect your Christian walk and guard your spiritual journey from being sucked into a fog of hopelessness and a nihilistic faith that leads to nowhere.

* God's word tells us, "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he testified of his Son. He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he heareth us: and if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (1 John 5:9-15).

We believe the testimony of God concerning his Son, but in believing he fulfilled his promise to return in the lifetime of his contemporaries, we are not oblidged to run ahead and speak falsely to others by denying the full scope of the new heavens and earth and the New Jerusalem where myriad spirits of the just abide and forever live.

Originally published on June 7, 2015.  Copyright © 2015, 2019 by True Christian Press.  All Rights Reserved.